Web Accessibility

Information should be Accessible to Everyone.

Web accessibility is the practice of making websites usable to everyone, regardless of their abilities or technologies. Your website may be accessed by any person and from any device; if it hasn’t been created in the right way, it might not display properly across devices or may be unusable by certain groups of people.

If your content isn’t accessible to everyone, you run the risk of alienating people and losing potential customers. Having an accessible website reduces the barriers faced by many people who try to access information and services online.

Auditing your Website for Accessibility

Auditing a website for accessibility involves checking its content and functionality against a set of guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These guidelines are a collection of checkpoints that a website is tested against to check how accessibile it is. Each checkpoint has a priority level assigned to it based on its impact on accessibility:

  • Prioirty 1 checkpoints must be satisfied or one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the webpage. Satisfying Priority 1 checkpoints is a basic requirements for some groups to be able to access web documents.
  • Priority 2 checkpoints should be satisfied or one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the webpage. Satisfying Priority 2 checkpoints will remove significant barriers to accessing web documents.
  • Priority 3 checkpoints may be satisfied or or or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the webpage. Satisfying Priority 3 checkpoints will improve access to web documents.

There are three levels of conformance to the Accessibility Guidelines, depending on which checkpoints have been met. A website is said to have ‘Double-A’ conformance if it meets all of the prioirity 1 checlpoints, ‘Double-A’ if it meets all of the Prioirity 1 and 2 checkpoints and ‘Triple-A’ if it meets the entire set of checkpoints. If a website fails to meet any one of the guidelines, it is not considered conformant.

Example Accessibility Guidelines

1.4.1 Use of Color: Color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. (Level A)

Checkpoint 1.4.1 recommends that colour is not used as the only visual means of conveying information (i.e. that words are underlined or bolded for emphasis, rather than only being coloured differently from other words). Satisfying this checkpoint ensures that highlighted words will be apparent on displays that don’t use colour but also to people using regular displays who have difficulty distinguishing colours. This, like many of the level A guidelines, is not difficult to implement; you can ensure that bold or italic formatting is used for any of the words on our website that we want to emphasise. rather than a different colour.

1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum): The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 [except for the large text, incidental and Logotypes]. (Level AA)

Checkpoint 1.4.1 recommends that text on a page has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.This line of text has a contrast ratio less than 3.5:1 and doesn’t meet the standard. To pass checkpoint 1.4.3, all of the text on your website needs to have medium to high contrast which can be difficult to ensure and can cause some design constrictions; level AA guidelines like these are more difficult to implement.

1.4.6 Contrast (Enhanced): The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 7:1 [except for the large text, incidental and Logotypes]. (Level AAA)

Checkpoint 1.4.6 recommends that the contrast ratio should be at least 7:1. All of the text on a level AAA compliant website must have at least as much contrast as this text. This is a more restrictive version of the last recommendation and more difficult to ensure again, particularly when colours other than black and white are being used to display text on a page.

Once we’ve audited your website for accessibility, validating your content against each of the checkpoints, we’ll compile a detailed report stating which level of conformance your website currently has (if any), which guidelines it fails to meet and the steps that are necessary for your website to achieve A, AA and AAA conformance. You can then decide which of these steps you’d like to have implemented.

Accessible doesn’t have to mean Bland.

Accessible versions of websites (where offered at all) are often created as an afterthought and frequently offer a user experience far below the standard of the primary design. This doesn’t have to be the case as we’ve illustrated with the North Leitrim Women’s Centre website.

We created two views for the website, the default view using a light colour scheme and a high contrast view for people with visual impairments. With the click of a button, the site can be transformed from one style to the other. Rather than offer a high contrast site that strips away the majority of design and decoration, this view retains the same level of detail and design, giving the same user experience regardless of the display method used.

Example of an Accessible Website

Benefits of being Accessible

Accessibility doesn’t just concern people with disabilities – because it concerns every devices and browser used to access online information it affects everyone. The biggest advantage of having an accessible website is that you won’t alienate any of your visitors, regardless of their abilities or the technology they use. Accessible websites are viewable from any kind of device and are specifically designed with ease of use as a priority.

Many of the changes needed to make a website more accessible will have a positive knock-on effect on the websites performance in search engines, such as putting intuitive navigation in place, having a uniform structure to each page and properly labeling embedded multimedia with alternative text descriptions. Accessible sites can still make full use of modern browser technologies like Javascript and embedded multimedia, but will degrade gracefully when the technologies are not available to end users or switched off.

Auditing you can Trust.

Some accessibility audits utilise software to perform automated accessibility tests on websites, but many accessibility checkpoints cannot be verified by software alone and require human judgement. When we complete an accessibility audit or create a WCAG compliant website, we manually verify each checkpoint and produce detailed accessibility reports in line with the WCAG recommendations. These reports reference each and every guideline and give a full, easily understood explanation where a page or site fails to meet them, so you will see for yourself exactly how your website conforms or not to the guidelines.

If you would like more information on accessible websites and accessibility audits, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.