Web accessibility explained

Working in partnership with Spacecraft, a strategic digital design agency, accessibility and total digital inclusion underpin everything we do. The same should apply to you and your website if you want to ensure no one gets left behind.

Contact us to find out more about how Jadu can help you with your website redesign and accessibility.

Jack Niland, User Experience (UX) Designer at Spacecraft, is their current accessibility expert:

“Everybody has a right to a web that they can use independently. Decisions made on how you implement your web projects can have a huge impact on whether or not this is possible for users. We as content creators have a responsibility to offer an inclusive and above all usable experience for whoever comes to our sites.”

According to the latest release of the Family Resources Survey 2016/17, there are currently 13.9 million people living in the UK who have a disability, which makes up 21% of the UK’s population.

This means that a large proportion of society may find it difficult to use the web on a daily basis, including their council’s website, where they need to complete essential tasks, such as reporting a missed bin or paying their council tax.

Due to this struggle, it’s vital to ensure that your website is completely accessible to all users so that they can experience and enjoy their time on the web in a clear, simple and seamless way. Not just once, but all the time.

However, this isn’t limited to just that one experience on a website. It also includes the journey and transitions before and after. How easily can the user navigate their way to your website and back to what they were doing beforehand?

If you’re able to make your website and user experience completely accessible, not only will it make your users’ lives easier, but it will also enable them to do everything online, reducing office visits and contact centre calls. As a result, it will significantly reduce costs and help you demonstrate social responsibility. It’s a win-win situation.

Accessibility is currently a huge topic within the local government and digital industry. This blog will aim to get you started on what seems to be a very complex and sensitive task. If you have any queries in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Accessibility Image Icons

What is accessibility?

“Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites and their content by persons with disabilities.” (Siteimprove, 2017)

In order to completely understand what accessibility is, we need to get back to basics.

Accessibility refers to designing and providing websites, products and digital environments that are accessible, friendly and usable for individuals who have a disability or impairment.

Everyone should be able to access, use and enjoy the web, which is why we aim to remove all barriers, leading to total digital inclusion for all of our users, customers and partners. Making the web accessible not only ensures a barrier-free and equal access to those who have a disability, but it is also the law for local government and councils.

Image of Harrogate Council's homepage as an example of an accessible website.

Accessibility and the law

The Equality Act 2010 introduced an expectation that websites will need to meet certain accessibility standards so that users who have a disability or an impairment can use the web clearly, easily and safely.

The EU Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications also states that all areas of central, regional and local government and public sector organisations need to make their websites and mobile apps meet common accessibility standards.

Now that these accessibility requirements have been transposed into UK law, new public sector websites that were created after 23rd September 2018 only have 1 year to meet these requirements and any that were created before have until 23rd September 2020 to meet them.

So, depending on how old your website is, you either have 1 year or 2 years to make sure they meet accessibility guidelines. Either way, that is not long at all.

Plus, to add icing on top of the accessibility cake, by 23rd June 2021, all mobile apps must be accessible too.

To make life a little bit easier, these universally recognised requirements are outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and are set out to improve web accessibility for everyone. They’re up to version 2.1, which was published on 5th June 2018 and primarily focuses on modern user habits, such as mobile use and design trends.

Image of thinking accessibility and knowing the law.

WCAG 2.1 in a nutshell

The accessibility guidelines are split into 4 digestible design principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. Otherwise known as ‘POUR’ within Jadu and Spacecraft.

These principles apply to all aspects of your website including code, content, development and interactions, which means all members of your team need to understand and consider them from the get-go. Accessibility should be at the forefront of your mind when it comes to your website.

We’ve summarised each of principles below so you don’t have to:

  1. Perceivable

In order to meet the new accessibility guidelines, you must ensure that your users are able to recognise and use your site with the senses that are available to them. A lot of your users might be visually or hearing impaired and so you’ll need to do things like provide alternative text for images, transcripts for video and ensure that content is structured clearly.

  1. Operable

Users must be able to navigate and use your website regardless of how they come to access it, such as via a keyboard or voice commands. This means that you should ensure that everything on your website works for those who can use only a keyboard and that there is no flashing or blinking content that could potentially cause seizures or physical reactions. Basically, make it so that users can navigate your website in a way that makes sense to them.

  1. Understandable

This one does exactly as it says on the tin. Your users should be able to clearly understand your content, how your products and services work and how to navigate around your website. Examples of how to satisfy this requirement include using plain English, keeping sentences short, explaining and spelling out abbreviations and acronyms and using meaningful and readable language, whilst avoiding unusual words, idioms and jargon.

  1. Robust

You must ensure that content is strong and reliable enough so that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, such as previous, current and future browsers, clients and assistive devices. In order to do this, you should use valid Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) so assistive technologies, such as audio players, reading guides and screen readers can interpret and parse content to users clearly and easily. It is also important to ensure that your user can then go back to what they were doing beforehand in a clear and easy way after they have engaged with your website.

How we can help make your website accessible

Working in partnership with Spacecraft, you have access to a team of passionate experts who have a deep understanding and proven track record of how to create or redesign, develop and test accessible and seamless experiences for all users.

If you would like more information on how we can help make your website accessible, please contact us today.

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The official Jadu Blog (a peek inside). The musings and magic of the Jadu team and log of new web apps, customer super hero stories and mobile web marvels.

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