Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher
New website accessibility standards are on the way
The new WCAG 3.0 guidelines have been in the drafting process since January, with an estimated publishing date of 2022.
These guidelines are set to make websites, apps, PDFs, ePub, and other emerging technologies even more accessible for people with disabilities.
It is useful to get to know what is on the horizon and prepare for these.
This week with support from ReciteMe I am providing a run-down of what you need to know…
What Is Website Accessibility?
When websites, apps, and other digital products are designed, coded, and presented correctly, everyone can use them. However, when content fails to meet recognised accessibility standards, people with disabilities may not be able to read, understand, or use online information.
Having an accessible and inclusive website benefits businesses, individuals, and society. However, the most recent research data from WebAIM shows that 97.4% of website homepages fail to comply with current guidelines.
Who Needs Web Accessibility Assistance?
One in every 5 people has some form of physical or hidden disability that makes accessing online content more challenging. This may change over their lifetime.
An access barrier can be any element of the design or formatting that prevents users from reading and understanding the content.
The people most susceptible to access barriers are those who have:
- Vision impairments, including colour blindness and deaf-blindness.
- Neurodivergent traits associated with Dyslexia, Developmental Coordination Disorder, Dyscalculia (also known as Dyspraxia), Dyscalculia, ADHD, Developmental Language Disorders and Autism Spectrum Conditions.
- Mental or neurological conditions such as epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease
- Physical disabilities
"One in every 5 people has some form of physical or hidden disability that makes accessing online content more challenging..."
What are WCAG and W3C?
WCAG is a set of measurable accessibility standards, specifically designed to make websites more accessible to people with disabilities.
WCAG documents and updates are published by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C was founded in 1994 to develop common sets of accessibility standards for the benefit of all internet users. It comprises several member organisations and is led by Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist credited with the invention of the world wide web.
The WCAG provides minimum standards that businesses globally should adhere to. They incorporate principles for labels, headings, colour contrast, text size, and navigation, among other factors.
There are three levels of conformance:
A – The most basic level of accessibility, comprising criteria that should be easy to achieve without much impact on website design or structure.
AA – This is the level that most development teams aim to meet and includes additional criteria to level A. WCAG AA compliance is now legally required for certain sites, and this is the level typically referred to when discussing ‘making a website accessible’.
AAA – With even more benchmarks set above level AA, this is the most comprehensive standard of accessibility compliance. For a website to achieve this rating, it would need to comply with every listed success criterion.
Why is WCAG the International Standard?
By providing specific, technical, and measurable frameworks supported by in-depth documentation for implementation and remediation, WCAG delivers all the methodology and techniques website owners need to ensure compliance.
The guidelines are developed to be used by anyone involved in building and maintaining a website. This includes web developers, content writers, graphic designers, tool developers, accessibility testers, and anyone else who seeks to learn or better understand how to implement accessible online journeys.
What are the Changes Between WCAG2 and WCAG3?
WCAG 2.1 and 2.2 successfully served to bridge gaps in criteria from WCAG 2.0 as
internet technology developed. However, WCAG 3.0 represents an entirely new model that includes improved approaches to testing and allows for more frequent updates so that it can accommodate a wider set of changing user needs and technologies.
In addition to stipulations for the build of your website, some of the main changes in WCAG 3.0 relate to:
- Text alternatives
- Clear wording
- Structured content
- Visual contrasts
You can read the complete working draft of the new WCAG 3.0 guidelines here.
Creating an Inclusive Environment for Employees
The changes to WCAG play an important part in how organisations should build websites. These additional improvements are being put in place to help provide an accessible experience for everyone.
Why is it important for employers?
The key for employers is to automatically think about being inclusive, and make positive changes to the way we all attract, recruit, develop, and retain employees with differing abilities.
Some people are nervous or reticent when considering web accessibility as it may be perceived as being complex, expensive, or simply too difficult to workaround.
However, this is a misperception, as the average cost of making an accommodation for a disabled employee is relatively low.
Why be inclusive?
- Draw from the widest pool of talent available
- Discovering new skill sets- neurodiverse employees are often creative thinkers and strategic problem solvers.
- Acquiring high-quality staff who are skilled, hardworking, loyal, and highly motivated means you can grow and keep a dynamic team.
- Greater innovation thanks to the wider perspective gained by having a more diverse team.
- Create equal opportunities that make everyone feel included.
- Demonstrating equity in the workplace is more than just being compliant.
- Improving staff morale and mental health for all.
Assistive Technology helps to be inclusive and to not miss out on talent
Website assistive technology will not make your website compliant, ticking that WCAG box, but it does provide you with a way to start to be more inclusive.
Accessibility and language support tools from Recite Me ( Do-IT use these excellent tools) provide people who come to the website with different options they can choose to suit their individual access needs.
Everybody is different. Our needs won’t be the same and we shouldn’t dictate how people should use the internet. Providing options creates an inclusive environment for all.
Some of the most common barriers faced by internet users include:
- Difficulties reading the text due to font, text size, or text spacing.
- Not being able to read the text due to poor colour contrasts between background and foreground.
- Unable to use a mouse or touchpad.
- Can’t focus on the relevant section of the text.
- Being distracted by graphics and image carousels.
How can Recite Me help?
Recite Me have an assistive toolbar and accessibility features that can be used individually or combined to make multiple adjustments for ease of use. Once users have set their preferences for customisations, those settings persist on that digital platform and are automatically applied the next time they return.
Users can for example:
- Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read.
- Utilise the mask screen tool, which isolates parts of the page to help with focus.
- Use the ruler tool to make reading easier.
- Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading.
- Convert page content into over 100 different on-screen languages.
- Have the page read aloud in a choice of 35 different languages.
- Customise PDF documents and have them read aloud or translated.
To identify non-compliance issues and fixes, Recite Me, is currently beta testing an accessibility scanner that will:
- Identify any areas of non-compliance with WCAG criteria.
- Show you what to fix and how to make the most effective improvements.
- Track your improvements over time and manage your fix queue.
- Help you share your accessibility report to showcase your continuing commitment to digital inclusion.
Every step we make to be inclusive from the start of the engagement process can help us to be more neuroinclusive.
Thanks to Recite Me for working with me to talk about Accessibility Standards.
Article Sources: WebAIM, Statista, InternetWorldStats.
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