The facts and myths surrounding accessibility
With the US Supreme Court’s recent decision not to hear the Domino’s Pizza case, accessibility is in the limelight again. Our take is that being mindful of accessibility won’t only help you avoid costly lawsuits; it will also provide a better, more inclusive experience for ALL of your users.
For your website to be accessible, it needs to follow these 4 principles:
- Perceivable: the website can be navigated using sight, hearing and touch. That means that the website should be compatible with screen readers and touch devices.
- Operable: the user is able to interact with the website with different devices, including just the mouse or just the keyboard.
- Understandable: the website is user-friendly and easy to understand.
- Robust: the website works across browsers, devices and assistive technologies.
If accessibility hasn’t been a core part of your website strategy, the idea of updating your site so that it’s compliant can feel overwhelming. In our many years of implementing accessible websites, we’ve come across a handful of myths that likely contribute to the apprehension. We’re setting the record straight – and hopefully offering some assurance about the value of offering your users an accessible website experience.
Fact: Accessibility improves the user experience.
In fact, it is one of the principles of accessibility. A site should be understandable to meet accessibility standards. To expand on that a little bit, it means the site should be predictable in terms of how it reacts and responds to user interaction. It should guide users on where to go next, and it should warn users in cases of errors. All of these make the website more user-friendly for all the users, not just those with disabilities.
Myth 1: Accessibility restricts the design of the site.
There used to be a time when making a site accessible meant giving up on the aesthetic of a website. That time is long gone and speaks more to the technology restrictions of that age. With the advent of modern browsers and the death of flash, sites can be interactive and beautiful while still adhering to accessibility standards. Sites still need to keep contrast ratio in mind, but there’s no need to give up on bringing your brand to life on your website because of accessibility.
Myth 2: Accessible sites must be text-only. Rich media cannot be used.
Modern browsers and available options to include captions and alternative text now make it so that a site doesn’t have to be pure text to meet accessibility standards. In fact, complex controls like Carousels, accordions, etc. can still be used and made accessible.
Myth 3: Accessibility requires only technology.
The key ingredient of your website is content. Although there are some technical aspects to making your site accessible (like ARIA tags), the onus of making your site accessible is on the content. Text should be readable and understandable. Images, audio or video need to be captioned and included as part of the content on the website. Design also plays a key role in your accessibility. Contrast, spacing between elements, etc. would need to be considered. So, accessibility is a multi-disciplinary problem that needs to be accounted for from the beginning.
Myth 4: Making your site accessible is one and done.
The content on your website is ever-changing. You will be adding new photos, videos and complex features to your website over the course of its lifetime. Accessibility should be top of mind as you update content and change the features and functionality of your site. We recommend performing an audit of the website at least once a year to catch any issues and developing a roadmap for prioritizing and addressing them.
We’ll all be following the Domino’s Pizza case, but we can’t stress how important it is for firms to take accessibility seriously regardless of what’s decided in the case. The good news is, modern content platforms, like Sitecore, have inherent support for accessibility through features like call-outs for accessibility tags and the ability to alert content editors about missing accessibility content.
If you’re interested in discovering what gaps or roadblocks exist on your current site, contact us about performing an accessibility audit. We’ll put together a plan that will help your firm improve your website experience not just for the disabled, but for all of your users.
Vinu is the Director of Solutions Architecture at One North, defining technical architecture for complex marketing/IT systems and products, acting as a technology consultant for clients and working with One North’s Strategy and Design teams to define and implement solutions that will serve the client’s objectives now and in the future.