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By Rhiana Heath

Is your Application Accessible for everyone to use?

Many of us have no issues getting around or performing day to day tasks; we don’t even consciously think about things such as going up stairs or navigating from a car park into a shop. For others though, these day-to-day tasks are more challenging, such as for people with little ones in prams or people who need crutches or wheelchairs to get around.

Thankfully, most buildings now are equipped with ramps, elevators, priority parking, accessible bathrooms and parent rooms to help out. There’s no way you could get a building approved without these key features included. Not only would you lose customers from people being unable to get to your business, you’d also be at risk of being sued for legal discrimination.

Equally as important, we should also ensure our web and mobile applications are accessible to everyone. People spend many weeks and months developing a project, but don’t think to check that everyone can use it. They’ll just assume everyone can. Until someone can’t...

When someone is unable to use your web application, a number of things can happen:

  • They leave your site and find another one that they can use
  • If they need it to do their job they might leave your company for one the is properly set up for them
  • Even more drastically, they can take legal action against your company for discrimination

Making a website accessible for everyone can seem daunting at first: there are a lot of things to check and a wide variety of people with different capabilities to consider. While the sheer volume of documentation from the WCAG can seem overwhelming, it can be divided into the following four categories to focus on:

1) Is it Perceivable for everyone?

Can everyone get the information from your site? Including people who are partially or completely blind? Can they still get the information with a screen reader? Or the 4% of the population who are colourblind, can they see everything on your site?

How about people with partial or complete deafness? Do you have a video on your site but haven’t added in closed captions?

2) Is it Operable for everyone?

If you usually use a mouse to navigate websites, you might not be aware that some people have difficulties with motor control and aren’t able to use a mouse. They might instead use a keyboard to navigate though, people who use screen readers also rely heavily on the keyboard.

Otherwise they may be using a tablet or mobile phone, as a lot of people do. Are the buttons far enough part so they can touch the correct one? Are the links too close together and they get sent to the wrong place a lot?

Accessibility is the degree to which anyone can access and use a website using any web browsing technology.Royal National Institute of Blind People

3) Is it Understandable by everyone?

Can someone, who hasn’t seen your site before, figure out how to navigate through it? Are there enough instructions so that everyone can achieve what they want to do with ease? Can they read and understand the content? Including people who may have trouble reading and digesting information.

4) Is it Robust?

Can your site be used on all browsers and devises? Or does it take > 10s to load on older machines or in places with slow internet? Is your set up following website guidelines for clean HTML so screen readers can process it?

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. – Tim Berners-Lee, Creator of World Wide Web

Websites are assigned conformance levels ranging from A to AAA, depending on how many of the accessibility criteria they satisfy. While A is the minimum level you need to be at for everyone to be able to use your application, AA is the ideal to achieve. This is determined using the WCAG standard.

If your application meets the four requirements above, you can be reasonably confident that it is sufficiently accessible to reach the widest possible audience. However, if you require a more formal acknowledgement, it is best to get it assessed by a professional who will issue you a certificate of conformance.

We are offering this service through our Accessibility Review service. For a low fixed fee, we will address each of the four categories above and provide you with a checklist of what aspects of your website need improving and suggested solutions.

Once your team has implemented these solutions (or we can do it for you), we will give you a free re-check before issuing you with your conformance certificate.

Please note that it is recommended you get periodically re-checked, especially if you add new features or significant changes to your application.

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