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Understanding Website Accessibility

Apr 26, 2011

Most people take accessing the Internet for granted. We use it on our phones, computers, even televisions. However, utilizing the wealth of information on the web isn’t so straightforward for everyone.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 20% of Americans live with some form of disability. These impairments generally fall into one of four classifications:

  • Motor (mobility and/or fine motor skill impairment)
  • Visual
  • Hearing
  • Cognitive (difficulty with complex/abundant information, learning disabilities)

Difficulties like these impact the way people navigate the Internet. If a website isn’t designed taking Digital Accessibility into account, tasks that most people find simple, like applying for a job or connecting with friends via social media, can be difficult or even impossible for people living with disabilities.

What Is Website Accessibility?

Put in broad terms, website accessibility refers to the design and development of web pages in a way that allows people with disabilities to interact with them equally and have the opportunity to fully understand a page’s content and purpose.

Accessibility not only benefits the user but can also protect website owners from legal ramifications under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). As inclusion awareness has increased, the issue of website accessibility has drawn growing attention. There is still a long way to go, however, until those with physical and cognitive challenges have the opportunity to access information unencumbered.

How Accessibility Is Achieved

Making a website accessible  is multi-faceted and involves practices  such as adding tags that allow images to be read by assistive technology to visually impaired people, and closed captioning to video and other media, to assist the hearing impaired.

The steps necessary to bring a website up to accessibility standards may be beyond the owner’s or developer’s knowledge and/or time resources. In cases such as these, organizations like The Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BoIA) are brought on to help. BoIA works with its clients to help identify the accessibility issues on their website and/or mobile application and offers best practice suggestions as to how to fix each issue in an effort to reach ADA compliance.  BoIA’s goal is to help each IT team become self-sufficient and comfortable with the accessibility guidelines so they learn throughout the process and can apply these skills to website updates in the future.

Achieving website accessibility is a win for everyone involved. It enhances visitor experience, provides legal protection for the owner, and helps create an online society that’s available equally to everyone.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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