FAQs around web accessibility

At Texthelp, we’re doing what we can to help make the digital world a more inclusive place for everyone. That’s why we’ve been working with industry experts to bring you informative webinars around web accessibility.

In our latest webinar, ‘Making essential digital communications inclusive and accessible’ with guests Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, and Jennifer Pyne, Brand Director at Radley Yeldar, our listeners had some great questions for us, which we wanted to share with you!

So, we’ve put together a full list of FAQs that someone kick-starting their journey into web accessibility may have...

A woman sitting at her laptop with a puzzled look on her face

Firstly we’ll address, what really is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is an inclusive practice which ensures a barrier free user experience for every person navigating the world wide web. Accessible websites are created with inclusive design in mind and contain content that can be accessed by anyone, regardless of disability, difference or language. You can learn more by taking a look at our dedicated web accessibility resources section.

Do website owners have a legal obligation to website accessibility?

Yes, many countries around the world are addressing digital access issues through legislation, such as;

  • Europe: European Accessibility Act
  • Australia: Disability Discrimination Act
  • USA: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Canada: The Accessible Canada Act

For more information about your obligations to web accessibility as a website owner, check out our informative page on web accessibility.

Are there guidelines to help improve web accessibility?

Yes, the internationally recognised standard for web accessibility is WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). It’s part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and they outline how organisations can make their web content accessible to every type of user. 

Does WCAG 2.1 sufficiently address disabled people's needs?

Being the internationally recognised standard for web accessibility, WCAG 2.1 is informed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community of member organisations. They work together to continually build on the guidelines to reflect advancements to web technologies, keeping in mind the principles upheld by W3C which is ‘Web for all, web on everything’. It is currently led by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, who once said “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”.  So, we think that if organisations aim to be WCAG 2.1 compliant, it would help make the web more accessible for people with disabilities.

What quick tests can I do to see if my website has accessibility issues? What are the things to look out for?

The below are a few quick, simple checks you can carry out to improve the accessibility of your online content;

  • Change the text size on your web page using the zoom functionality on your browser, to see if everything scales up effectively - that’ll tell you if the text is operated from the page layout, and if you are using styles correctly.
  • Use your tab key to go through every navigation/link in the body of text to check the functionality of navigation for blind people and those with visual impairments.
  • Analyse the contrast of your chosen colour scheme by using a contrast checker - this will help you to make sure your content is accessible for those with colour sensitivities and colour blindness.
  • Use accessibility tools, such as the ReachDeck Auditor, to scan your webpage for potential issues - using Wave, simply enter your web page URL and it’ll highlight warning areas for you to review.

If you can, extend your testing process to include end-users with a range of disabilities or impairments. Draw upon your colleagues or any disability-related interest groups within your organisation, or reach out to organisations such as AbilityNet to help. 

I’m keen to improve the accessibility of my website. What’s the best way to start? What should be my first step?

Where you begin your web accessibility journey depends on whether you’ve got a web team behind you or not. If you’re a solo person, carry out the simple checks addressed in the previous question to help address any current issues. If you’ve not yet created your website, then we recommend choosing a platform that has web accessibility built in, such as Wordpress. If you’ve a web team behind you, then get buy in at the higher level to make sure you’ve the right resources set aside. Anyone in a web team will be able to get to grips with the guidelines and put them into practice. It’ll take some work initially, but as you build this into your normal day to day then this will get easier.

Is there anything specific that I can bear in mind to make communications accessible during coronavirus lockdown?

Making your website accessible isn’t a quick journey, but there are some simple considerations you can make to improve the accessibility of your online content. Jennifer Pyne, Brand Director at Radley Yeldar, outlines four top tips to consider in her guest blog, and we think that’s a great place to start!

Do you have advice for creating accessible images and infographics?

As with all non-text content, it’s recommended that a text alternative is provided to allow screen readers to access the content. When it comes to images, make sure you provide an image alt tag that effectively conveys the content. In terms of infographics, it isn’t user-friendly to provide a long description in an image alt tag, so you could choose to provide a text transcript on the page below the infographic, or link to a text alternative landing page or document. In this case, include a statement in the content around the infographic informing the user that a text alternative is available, and provide the link -  as an example, here’s one of our live infographics.

When using moving imagery - how do you include print disabled audiences?

The WCAG 2.1 guidelines recommend the following first and foremost, when it comes to moving imagery;

‘For any moving, blinking or scrolling information that (1) starts automatically, (2) lasts more than five seconds, and (3) is presented in parallel with other content, there is a mechanism for the user to pause, stop, or hide it unless the movement, blinking, or scrolling is part of an activity where it is essential’

In relation to print disabled audiences, when it comes to moving imagery, the WCAG guidelines advise that an audio description or media alternative be provided. This could include audio description within the moving imagery media (a running description within the media content), or a text alternative (a full script of all the visual and auditory information contained). 

Does using video and moving images make things more inaccessible for those using assistive technology like screen readers etc.?

Only if the content conveyed in those images isn’t provided in an alternative format also, for example through audio description embedded in the audio track of the video or as a text alternative (as mentioned above), or if auto-playing content effectively ‘breaks’ the screen reader by making it impossible for the user to hear the speech over the audio, meaning they cannot navigate to the pause button to stop it.

I have come across Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) when looking at web accessibility best practice. What is this and how does it help?

ARIA is a technical specification published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that specifies how to make web content and web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It is particularly useful for dynamic content and advanced user interface components developed with Ajax, HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies.

“ARIA is extremely useful if your website has a lot of dynamically changing content. If it’s a web application then it’s a must. ARIA layers on a lot of useful behaviour for screen reader users and can make all the difference between an unusable site and a very well-supported experience for blind users.” - Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet.

Is there any way I can provide additional support for my online visitors? 

As you follow the web accessibility guidelines, you'll be creating and designing content with inclusivity in mind, and to help support your efforts, there are tools such as ReachDeck which can help. ReachDeck helps you to improve the accessibility, readability and reach of your digital content. Discover more about the benefits ReachDeck, or try it for free.

Hear more about web accessibility best practice in our latest webinar, ‘Making essential digital communications inclusive and accessible’, with guests Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, and Jennifer Pyne, Brand Director at Radley Yeldar.