The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help web developers achieve this goal. These guidelines go all the way back to 1999, near the height of the dot-com bubble and before the era of ipods, iphones, and responsive screens.
The web has evolved since then and so have the means of achieving accessibility, with W3C releasing WCAG 2.1 as a recommendation in 2018. This couldn’t have come at a better time, since now more than ever, website creators are focused on the User Experience (UX).
It’s become more than a recommendation. You must do it. Not only will you open your site to more users, you’ll make it better for everyone. A lot of the WCAG recommendations are just plain common-sense good user experience. So the question becomes, how do you start? Especially if you’re not using a screen reader or need accommodations yourself.
Automation is the most obvious starting point. There are many tools out there to test and update your site. W3C makes a tool that operates as a plugin for major browsers, such as Google Chrome. Google Chrome has a built-in tool for testing many aspects of your site, including accessibility – it’s called Lighthouse. These are all great and help identify many issues. We use this for our clients to help strive for the “AA” level of accessibility as defined in WCAG.
But what about the humans?! How about our subjective ability to use a site if we’re disabled? So far, no single robot or testing tool can act and perceive as a human does. This is where actual humans and manual testing come into play. If you really want to know whether your site can be used by humans with disabilities, get a human to test your site!
It may seem daunting because the range of accommodations can very broad: from people who have limited to zero mobility, to people who are on the spectrum of vision assistance to fully blind. Therefore, a niche of accessibility services have sprung up and there are many companies that will review your site with a range of testers.
Accessibility isn’t something that’s just “done and fixed”. With website updates, new browser versions being pushed, across a multitude of screen readers, and the guidelines getting updated this means it’s continual maintenance and refinements to get your website as accessible to as many people as possible. Good UX is just good business.
Most of these accessibility companies will work with you to regularly test and make sure you are offering the best content possible. Some of them will provide a logo to place on your site to certify that you take accessibility seriously and have contracted them for help. Get in touch with us and we’ll help you find the best one for you.