Web accessibility is, of course, something that you know we should all be acknowledging and making sure we’re on top of.  But, I bet you won’t be surprised to know that there are a lot of websites out there that suffer from poor accessibility.

In the UK alone, it is reported that there are over 11 million people with recorded disabilities and many require assistive technologies to help them perceive content.

In a nutshell, web accessibility is the assurance you give to make sure your online content is accessible to everyone.  Primarily, users with disabilities are subject to digesting information with great difficulties of all levels. This included auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities which can make most online tasks more challenging for the user.

So, there’s no excuse for not thinking about accessibility.

It’s easy to say that you should be thinking about web accessibility right from the start but with every project, there’s plenty of things to be doing first.  The best opportunity to start thinking about accessibility is pre-design, whilst writing copy and deciding on the architecture of your site.

A reason for this is because 29% of users that require assistive technologies use screen readers and are dependant on voice-controlled programs to help deliver your content.  So when your structuring content, it’s a good time to read aloud and make sure it flows without any visual enhancement.

It even pays to think what a machine might think about your content.  We all know that home devices are paving the way for voiceless control over smart home technologies but these devices are amazing for people with disabilities.  Accessibility is now broader than the user.

Let’s move on to design, where there might be a more obvious task where accessibility needs to be addressed.  When designing a site, there’s a host of guides and rules to follow when accommodating great web accessibility.  Mostly here it’s all about the visual accessibility of your project and being aware of things like font sizes, contrasting colours and navigational elements.  30% of used assistive technologies are screen magnifiers, so scale and readability is important in design.

To help through a project, there are 4 key principles to be aware of, introduced by W3C and the Web Accessibility guide WCAG 2.0.

1. Perceivable

Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

2. Operable

User interface components and navigation must be operable.

3. Understandable

Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

4. Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

In summary, a good thing to do is always think about these 4 principles with your content and run your site through accessibility tests.  Use the assistive technologies and you could also try using your site without a mouse or trackpad.