April 15, 2020

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Everything You Need to Know About the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

When you’re browsing the web or developing a website, you probably don’t realize that there are groups of people who struggle with the accessibility of digital information on a daily basis. Among these are people with a physical disability, photosensitive seizures, and cognitive disabilities. You could also think of older people with a growing visual or hearing impairment. To make sure that these people can access digital information just as well as all other users can, a number of guidelines have been prepared. These guidelines are known as the WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Four important principles of the WCAG

The guidelines of the WCAG are based on the following four principles:

  • Perceivable
    People should be able to use and experience the website with the senses that they have available. Some web users may have difficulties with one or more of their senses. Therefore, they might need assistive technology to browse your website.
    Means to make your website perceivable:

    • Use textual alternatives for non-textual content.
    • Provide a transcript for audio and video content.
    • Add subtitles to videos
  • Operable
    People should be able to use and find the content on the website, regardless of the way they use your website. Some users might have motor difficulties and use their keyboard to navigate, while others who have a sight impairment will often use a keyboard instead of a mouse.
    Means to make your website operable:

    • Ensure good keyboard-only navigation.
    • Avoid setting time limits for users.
    • Use descriptive links so people know where they lead to.
  • Understandable
    People should be able to understand the software and your website, and they should understand how the website works. Your website can only be perceivable and operable if it’s understandable. So make sure your website functions in a way that everyone can understand.
    Means to make your website understandable:

    • Give the software the ability to decide on the language of the page.
    • Make sure the content is readable and understandable.
    • Make sure that forms have visible and meaningful labels.
  • Robust
    The content on your website should enable reliable interpretation by a wide range of user agents. It should run on third-party technology (like web browsers) that people can rely on. This way you avoid the risk that users relying on technology cannot correctly access your website.
    Means to make your website robust:

    • Use error-free code.
    • Ensure maximum compatibility with current and future browsers.
    • Make sure that third-party technologies understand what each function is for.

Accessibility is important for all users

Accessibility is not only crucial for users with a disability of some sort. Other users, or we should say ALL users, benefit from a website that is accessible. If your website and web content live up to the principles we mentioned above, then the overall user experience and satisfaction of users will improve. Some features that were once designed for users with a specific disability are now often used by others as well. Situations you could think of are:

  • You want to watch a video but you’re in a room with a lot of noise and there is no way that you’re ever going to hear what the people in the video are saying. In that scenario, you are grateful that the video is subtitled, so you can watch it anyway.
  • Or you’re working from home and the weather is just lovely so you decide to work outside for a little while, but the sun is so bright that it’s harder to see what’s on your screen. Then it’s good to know that the contrast of the colors on the website are enhanced so the content is easier to read.

Why accessibility is important for your company

There are a number of reasons why accessibility is important for your company. We have outlined the most important reasons below:

  • You don’t want to exclude anyone.

It should be the company’s top priority to make sure that its website is accessible to as many people as possible. Why should you exclude people when it’s not that difficult to implement the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines? Accessibility is key to reaching your entire target group. The bigger your audience, the more traffic and conversions your website will generate.

  • Your market reach will increase.

The market of people with disabilities and the aging population is large and keeps on growing. In the Netherlands, for example, an estimated 25% of the population has some form of disability. If you make sure that your web content is accessible and well-received by ALL users, you can extend your market reach. Especially across different devices and in a variety of situations.

  • Greater customer satisfaction.

Usability and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. Updating your website design according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, also improves its usability. That’s because web accessibility is also beneficial in these situations:

  • When people browse your website on devices like mobile phones, smartwatches, and other devices with small screens.
  • When people suffer temporary disabilities, like a broken arm or lost glasses.
  • When people browse your website in challenging situations, like bright, glaring sunlight.
  • When people browse your website using a slow internet connection.

How Textmetrics can help you with the accessibility of your web content

At Textmetrics, we have a number of tools that can help you improve the accessibility of your website and web content. First of all, you can use one of our tools to scan a web page or crawl your entire website for elements that do not comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. For instance, our tool flags elements where the contrast of the colors is not up to par, where text scaling or zooming is not available, or where there is no text alternative for an image. Once you know what the issues are and how your website can be improved, it’s easy to implement the necessary changes.

This is important in order to reach your entire target group and to adhere to your company’s Inclusion and Diversity Policy. Recruitment departments often struggle with inclusion when it comes to job openings. Our tool can help recruiters write job ads that appeal to everyone. Together with our Gender Scan, which lets you know if your content has a more male or female tone of voice, Textmetrics facilitates a giant leap forward when it comes to inclusion.

For more information on how to use our Accessibility feature, check out this article.

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