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The role of website accessibility in website development: making the web friendly for everyone

Over the years, websites have transformed from simple text-based pages to interactive and dynamic personalised user experiences. Website accessibility was introduced several years ago and is becoming increasingly important to date. In the digital era, ensuring that websites are accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, has become an essential aspect of website development

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of website accessibility and discuss how web developers can create more inclusive and user-friendly websites.

What is website accessibility?

Website accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites that cater to the needs of all users, including those with disabilities. It allows the web to be more inclusive, ensuring that everyone can access, navigate, and interact with online content without barriers. 

Adhering to website accessibility standards 

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This is a set of recommendations to make website content more accessible. These guidelines have become the global standard for website accessibility, offering web developers a roadmap to build websites that can be accessed and enjoyed by all users.

WCAG recommendations are organised into three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA. 

Website accessibility standards in the UK

In the UK, public sector organisations must ensure that their websites and mobile applications conform to WCAG 2.1 Level AA accessibility standards. This was introduced in September 2018, with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. Public sector bodies are also required to publish an accessibility statement on their websites, detailing the level of compliance and any known accessibility issues.

While the Accessibility Regulations specifically apply to public sector organisations, private sector businesses are still subject to the broader requirements of the Equality Act 2010. It is considered best practice for all organisations in the UK to strive for WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance, as it helps meet legal obligations under the Equality Act and ensures a more inclusive web experience for all users.

Website accessibility standards outside of the UK

Many nations have adopted or aligned their website accessibility guidelines with WCAG

However, different countries may have specific requirements or variations in the way they enforce website accessibility standards. Here are a few examples:

  1. United States: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that businesses and public institutions make their online content accessible to users with disabilities. The US federal government follows Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible. Both the ADA and Section 508 have aligned their requirements with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
  2. European Union: The EU introduced the Web Accessibility Directive in 2016, which requires public sector websites and mobile applications to be accessible. Member states have adopted this directive into their national laws, and it is based on WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
  3. Canada: The Canadian government has implemented the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which requires businesses and organisations in Ontario to make their websites accessible. The AODA’s accessibility standards are based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA. The federal government has its own standard called the Standard on Web Accessibility, which aligns with WCAG 2.0 Level AA as well.
  4. Australia: The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in Australia requires that businesses and organisations ensure equal access to their services, including websites. The Australian government has adopted the WCAG 2.0 guidelines as the standard for website accessibility and expects organisations to comply with at least Level AA.

While there may be variations in the specific regulations and enforcement methods, the WCAG serves as the primary reference point for website accessibility standards worldwide. 

To achieve compliance with accessibility standards, web developers should aim for WCAG compliance as well as adhering to country-specific requirements. Accessibility should be implemented appropriately through website design, development, and testing practices.

Why is website accessibility important?

The role of website accessibility is important for organisations and website developers for many reasons. Here are just some of them:

  1. Social responsibility and inclusivity
  2. Legal compliance
  3. Enhanced user experience and SEO
  4. Expanding market reach

Let’s discuss the importance of website accessibility in more detail… 

Social responsibility and inclusivity

Accessibility is a fundamental human right, and making websites accessible to everyone is a social responsibility. By creating accessible websites, developers can break down barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in the digital world. This not only ensures inclusivity but also fosters a sense of belonging among all users.

Legal compliance

In several countries, website accessibility is a legal requirement. For example, in the UK, public sector bodies must comply with WCAG 2.1 Level AA accessibility standards, or they could face hefty fines. 

Enhanced user experience and SEO

An accessible website not only benefits users with disabilities but also improves the overall user experience for all visitors. A well-designed, accessible site is typically easier to navigate, more responsive, and has better content structure. Moreover, accessibility features often overlap with best practices for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which can lead to improved search rankings and increased website traffic.

Expanding market reach

By ensuring website accessibility, businesses can tap into the spending power of users with disabilities, who represent a significant demographic. Accessible websites can also appeal to older users, who may experience age-related impairments. In short, making a website accessible can help businesses reach a broader audience and maximise their potential customer base.

How to implement website accessibility in website development

Whether you’re developing a new website, or updating your existing one, you should consider the following factors to ensure website accessibility

  1. Understand the WCAG guidelines: aim for at least level AA compliance, as it covers most of the requirements for a fully accessible website.
  2. Design for accessibility: choose colour schemes with sufficient contrast, use legible typography, and create a clear and logical layout. Make sure your website is keyboard-navigable, too.
  3. Write accessible content: use clear and concise language, and provide descriptive headings and subheadings to improve readability. Additionally, include alternative text (alt text) for images and multimedia, ensuring that screen reader users can understand the purpose of these elements.
  4. Use accessible code: use semantic HTML to give meaning to your content, making it easier for assistive technologies to interpret. Ensure that your website is responsive and works well on various devices, screen sizes, and browsers.
  5. Test and validate: regularly test your website for accessibility, using automated tools.

How Codeminers can help with website accessibility

Here at Codeminers, we’re a website development company, offering custom web development solutions. We’re experts in website accessibility, so our custom built websites will always adhere to the latest website accessibility standards

If you have an upcoming website project and are interested to hear more about our web development services, then contact us for a chat.

  • Written by Simon Proctor, May 02 2023