The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 contains 78 success criteria, which range from fairly simple requirements (add alternative text to images) to complex technical specifications (provide a mechanism to bypass blocks of content).
If you’re not an experienced web developer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, no website is perfect, and as long as you’re making a good-faith effort to improve the experiences of users with disabilities, you’re on the right track.
One of the most important steps towards a more accessible website is committing to the process. Every improvement could potentially impact real-life users — and while setting long-term goals is important, removing a single barrier will make your site more useful to a wider range of users.
Many accessibility barriers can be fixed quickly and easily
It’s true that some accessibility issues require technical knowledge and experience, and addressing those barriers incorrectly could lead to additional problems. For example, we wouldn’t recommend writing WAI-ARIA markup unless you fully understand the purpose of WAI-ARIA.
With that said, many of the most frustrating web accessibility issues can be remediated through basic HTML. In a 2022 report from WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind), the most common barriers on the internet’s top one million websites included low-contrast text, missing alternative text (also known as alt text), missing form labels, and missing document language attributes.
Each of these issues can be fixed by making quick changes:
- Make sure that every page includes an HTML lang attribute.
- Add descriptive alternative text to images and other non-text content.
- Avoid low-contrast text by checking color choices with our Color Contrast Accessibility Validator, then make adjustments to follow WCAG recommendations.
- Label all form fields and provide instructions when content requires user input.
On a large website, adding alt text to thousands of images or applying a new color scheme may take time. Even so, there’s nothing especially complicated about these types of fixes, and every improvement makes your site accessible to a wider range of users.
The takeaway: Basic web accessibility is within every organization’s capabilities. As long as you understand why changes are important — and as long as you review WCAG before making those changes — you can start making improvements.
Related: What Is "Accessibility Debt"?
Set a goal for WCAG conformance and track your progress
To remediate effectively, you’ll need to audit your website against WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. Websites that follow WCAG Level AA are considered generally accessible for most users with disabilities, and by establishing a clear goal, you’ll be able to gauge your progress as you begin fixing issues.
Our free automated WCAG 2.1 compliance summary provides an excellent starting point for assessing your current level of WCAG conformance. While automated audits are limited, they’re useful for evaluating many common WCAG conformance failures. As your initiative progresses, you may benefit from a hybrid testing methodology that combines automated testing with manual audits from experienced accessibility experts.
When reviewing the results of an accessibility audit, consider how barriers affect real-life users. For example, if an image doesn’t contain alt text, people who use screen readers won’t be able to understand the purpose or function of the image. Continue to think about real users when planning your remediations.
Web accessibility is an investment that pays off
It’s never too late to begin thinking about accessibility. Even if your organization has limited resources, you can take the first steps towards WCAG conformance right away.
Remember, any time spent on improving your site’s user experience will pay dividends. By removing barriers, you’ll expand your audience considerably, and an accessible website can be a powerful marketing tool for your brand.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility provides free resources to help webmasters get started. Our Compliance Roadmap contains tools for learning about accessibility, testing content against WCAG success criteria, and establishing a long-term plan for digital compliance.
If you’re new to the concept of digital accessibility, download Developing the Accessibility Mindset, an ebook that explains the principles of accessible design. You can also send us a direct message to discuss specific issues or to schedule a consultation.