1 in 10 persons of working age in Ireland has a disability.
Just over 3% of the population has a hearing or sight impairment that affects their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Is your website turning away potential users? The internet is a powerful opportunity for many people access goods and services from wherever they are, whenever they want. Does your website invite people to do just that?
If your website isn’t fully accessible, you may be missing out on good customers. Conduct a website accessibility audit to find out. Don’t think you need an audit?
You might be surprised. Read on to find out why.
You work hard to target customers. They come to your website and then immediately leave because they can’t use it. Not exactly the result you wanted, right?
Web accessibility is about assuring that your website information can be used by all. In Ireland, like the most of the EU, the standard is Web Accessibility Standard 2.0, based upon the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG.
These standards became mandatory for the public sector (and all private sector websites and apps used by the public sector) in September 2018.
WCAG 2.0 highlights four key principles to make web content access easier. They are:
Able to be seen, heard or sensed with or without assistive technology.
Able to be used by anyone with or without assistive technologies.
The content needs to be readable and understood easily.
The content is interpretable by users and assistive technology.
In Ireland, all new public-facing and internal websites and apps in the public sector must conform to the accessibility standard by September 2019. Websites created before September 2018 must meet the accessibility standard by September 2020. All public sector apps must meet the standard by June 2021.
WCAG is divided into checkpoints. These checkpoints are prioritized. Priority 1 is the most necessary accommodations for access and priority 4 being the least important.
WCAG 2.0 has three conformance levels: A, AA and AAA. Level A is the minimum Irish standard. AA is the recommended level of compliance for EU websites.
Level A includes all the priority 1 checkpoints and some priority 2 checkpoints. It calls for the most basic accessibility features, such as alternate text for images and other non-text components. Videos need to include captions, for example.
Recommended Level AA includes additional priority 2 and 3 features, such as an audio description for videos, navigation consistency and resizable text in any browser. Level AAA includes advice for website copy and the most advanced accessibility features.
There is a great bunch of information to absorb. Take your time to get familiar with the 12 basic categories and what each cover. WCAG 2.0 guidelines touch code, content, images and more. For example:
After you give the guidelines a quick study, look into the basic code of your website.
The National Disability Authority IT Accessibility Guidelines cover a number of items outside the public sector. These can include your private sector store or service, mobile apps or other public-facing access points.
For example, this includes websites, public access terminals, telecommunications, smart car, s and software. Additionally, the Equality Authority has specific inclusionary language for employees or prospective employees needing disability accommodation.
A website accessibility audit allows you to examine your compliance and make improvements before legal enforcement makes correction necessary. Also, simply making your website accessible to the common assistive technology is good business!
The first step isn’t a formal audit, but a simple check. You need nothing special or specialised knowledge.
Navigate using the keyboard only. Use the tab key to get around your site. If you can’t get around your website without a mouse, people with motor or vision impairments can’t get around your site.
Use your browser settings to enlarge the text on the page. Try this with several different browsers. If the layout or text degrades or does not enlarge, you are blocking people with vision impairments.
Alternative text is the functional description of images for people who cannot see the image itself. The absence of text or text that is an inappropriate description is an obstacle for a person who uses a screen reader. A website image described as “image 1” instead of “picture of a girl wearing bicycling helmet” is almost useless to an impaired person.
There are many online tools you can use to look at accessibility issues on your site. Submit your site to the Wave Accessibility Tool for a good, not too technical look at your website alternative text. There are free and paid versions of the tool.
If you aren’t a developer, looking at your code is challenging. The Wave Accessibility Tool tests the basic markup of your website.
There are a few other things you can do yourself.
These are some of the most common accessibility obstacles.
A large percentage of users with sight disabilities use screen reading technology. Your site needs to work with this common assistance aid to meet minimum compliance standards.
A fast way to check your site is to use the appropriate extension for your browser to read it aloud. Use ChromeVox for Chrome, Fangs for Firefox and Microsoft Narrator to narrate your site. Screen readers do not do well with unsound code, unclear navigation or complicated layout.
When auditing your content, look for logical structure. Are your header tags appropriate? Do they form a readable outline?
Look at your video experience. Do all of your videos include audio description plus captions or subtitles?
Are you adapted for colour-blindness? Make sure information presented in colour shows through contrast and pattern as well as colour.
For your audit to be most useful, you need to know about how a site is built and maintained. A web accessibility audit systematically measures a website’s level of accessibility against accessibility standards. The result is a list of recommended actions to improve.
You can use external consultants or perform your audit in-house. You may perform a manual audit or use automated tools to assist a manual audit. Simply running an online check is not equivalent a full audit.
An audit can involve every page on your website or a sample of pages. Use your audit as a tool to help you develop and improve your website.
Similar to web analytics, the Web Accessibility Initiative has its own vocabulary. The standards and priorities of WAI are incorporated into the guidelines and laws of EU Member States. You may begin the process of a website accessibility audit with automated tools, but human judgment will be needed for several steps.
For example, there are 16 WCAG checkpoints considered priority 1 (mandatory) for a website. Only one checkpoint can be fully verified by software alone. The remaining checkpoints need human judgment for verification.
To illustrate: Accessibility software can examine a webpage and verify that images have alternate text. However, the software cannot reliably tell if the alternate text is an accurate and understandable description.
Expert use of automated auditing tools is a recommendation. Many false positives or false negatives can otherwise waste developer time. The software is most useful to determine that a website conforms to page markup standards, not to determine accessibility.
Testing your site in-house should already be part of your quality management process. It is most useful as new content is published.
However, it can have disadvantages:
Provide staff with training in web accessibility and provide access to appropriate tools and advice as required. This is especially important for the people in charge of developing and maintaining your website.
Many people prefer to approach a web accessibility audit by hiring outside expertise. There are some strong advantages to this thinking:
There are some disadvantages, too:
Selecting external expertise for a web accessibility audit is likely part of a tendering process. Attributes to prioritize in your expert:
Remember your implementation deadlines as you prepare the tendering process.
Once you have your audit results in hand, you can revise your website and build new pages with accessibility in mind. If you’re not knowledgeable enough to make changes to your website yourself, make sure to work with a developer who is familiar with Level AA web accessibility.
Once you’ve gathered all of this information about your website’s accessibility, it’s important to spend some time making your audit actionable.
Spend some time thinking about your desired level of compliance. Set your goals and timeline. Do you want your website to be Level A or AA or AAA?
How much can your website development staff handle? After your audit, you may be 98% compliant, which is still not compliant. Some production management tips for your post-audit tasks:
Always retest your website. In addition to automated testing, you may want to encourage people who use assistive technology to test your corrections.
Outside experts are probably not required for this step. Retesting iterations of your website van can be done in-house.
Missing out on customers because they can’t access your site is a poor business idea. Making your website available to persons with disabilities isn’t just a good idea to build your customer base. If you are in several industries or plan on selling to government entities, it is the law.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG 2.0 is the standard on which the law is based. Take some time to get to know it. It covers almost every aspect of website accessibility.
Which type of website accessibility audit is right for you? Things to consider in choosing your audit type:
Choose the audit type that is right for your website and put the recommendations into development. Make new content the priority for full implementation. Project manage retroactive changes.
Whether you choose Level I, II or III, park your website on a stable and easy to use host. Regular content changes and other simple fixes are no problem.
Now that you’ve completed your web accessibility audit and action plan, read on to learn how Host.ie can optimize web hosting with scalable plans, hundreds of apps and 24-hour technical support.
Contact us today!