Website Accessibility for Beginners

Kris Rivenburgh
Nov 12, 2019 · 3 min read
Acer laptop sitting on bright green grass outside.
Acer laptop sitting on bright green grass outside.

All website accessibility means is we’re making our websites accessible for persons with various disabilities.

Many people immediately think of vision impairments but hearing, motor skills, and cognitive impairments all need to be accounted for to have a truly accessible website.

Other considerations:

  • Speech disabilities (for voice input)
  • Reading disabilities
  • Seizures

It may be helpful to view accessibility as we’re opening up our website so that everyone can have equal access to the content and functions. The means of access might be different, but, if so, it’s equivalent.

For example, someone with a vision impairment may not be able to see an image but as long as descriptive alternative text is provided for that image, the image can still be effectively conveyed.

How To Make a Website Accessible

The best way to approach accessibility is to follow the guidelines put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The formal name of these guidelines is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and version 2.0 level AA is what you’ll want to strive to meet.

WCAG is a set of technical standards so it can be hard to understand but this WCAG 2.0 guide makes learning much easier.

Legal Side of Accessibility

In many countries across the world, web accessibility is the law.

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is being interpreted by the majority of federal courts to apply to websites of private entities (from small businesses to non-profits to corporations).

The result is that if a website isn’t accessible, it can be viewed as discriminatory against persons with disabilities and therefore in violation of the ADA.

Even in 2020, there appear to be no formal federal guidelines forthcoming on what constitutes an accessible website, but we do know that both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and federal and state courts commonly reference WCAG 2.0 AA when assessing accessibility.

Besides the ADA, there are various other federal and state laws and regulations that also require digital accessibility.

Solutions

There are many companies who specialize in web accessibility.

Usually the process of fixing (referred to as remediation) your website begins with a manual audit.

An audit lists all of the accessibility issues your website has.

Once an audit has been completed, typically a website owner either has a company, in-house developer, or freelance developer correct all of the issues flagged by the audit.

Many companies are now promoting a toolbar overlay to make a website accessible. Sometimes you’ll see it referred to as a widget or a plugin but the result is users have an option to click on an icon and open up a panel of options for accessibility.

While they can provide some benefit, toolbars are not final or complete solutions to accessibility — not even close.

In a Nutshell

Website accessibility is critical in making the web accessible for everyone and maintaining compliance with the law.

To make your website accessible, fix (remediate) your website so that it meets WCAG 2.0 AA standards.

Kris Rivenburgh

Written by

ADA Website Compliance & web accessibility consultant. https://ADABook.com Author. https://accessible.org Founder. https://accessibletheme.com Creator. Attorney

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