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Spotlight on Accessibility - Is your Website WCAG 2.0 Compliant?

Header Accessibility: Man with Lightbulb


12.12.2012

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is all about making content more accessible to people with disabilities, says the body who authors the official guidelines, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These guidelines are called WCAG 2.0 – busting through the acronym, this just means the second version of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

But wait! The Australian federal government department FAHCSIA thinks it’s less about disability and more about making something that can be used by as many people as possible.
 

At Adcorp we think they’re both right… but also that accessibility is something much simpler.

If you really want a colleague to hear something you are saying, you speak clearly. If you need your pen pal to read a posted confession of affection, you write neatly. And so, if you want what you communicate on the internet to be heard, seen and received by your audience – be it a colour-blind child, hearing-impaired non-English speaker or crazed Google web-crawling robot  – you communicate it within the guidelines for accessibility.

Do I really need to care?

Well, if you use the web, you intend for your communications to be received. And if they’re not, you should be pretty unhappy. So that’s one thing.

The Australian Human Rights Commission outlines another:

“One in five Australians has a disability, and the proportion is growing. The full and independent participation by people with a disability in web-based communication and online information delivery not only makes good business and marketing sense, but is also consistent with our society’s obligations to remove discrimination and promote human rights.”

If you or someone you know has a disability, including but limited to:
•    visual
•    auditory
•    physical
•    speech
•    cognitive
•    language
•    learning, and
•    neurological disabilities,
you should be across accessibility because it keeps people with a disability better in the loop. Over one million Australians are deaf or hard of hearing – maybe a transcript to that piece of audio on your site is worth it after all?

There’s also a growing swell of support for accessibilityfrom government. Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have mandated compliance with web accessibility standards, and so have obligations to implement policies and practices that are consistent with it.

Individuals and organisations providing information and services via the World Wide Web need to consider how they make their websites and other web resources accessible to people with a disability, as a complaint of discrimination is much less likely to succeed if reasonable steps have been taken to address accessibility during the design stage.

Turn on the light

Looking closely to see what accessibility means in practice is a revelation.

Let’s consider an image on a website of a dog eating a bone. If the site manager fails to provide ‘alternative text’ to describe the image, to everyone or everything that lacks the full ability to see, the ‘image’ will just be another non-descript blob on the internet. An image of a dog WITH the alternative text “border collie with huge dinosaur bone” however will be recognised for what it is to everyone that visits – an incredible image of a dog eyeing up a Cretaceous bone! That also means that people who search for “dinosaur border collies” will be more likely to find your page. Tasty!
 

border collie with huge dinosaur bone



That’s just the basics though. Accessibility extends to captions for audio, sign language in video, simplified screen layouts, clear use of colour and contrast, and simple navigation for example with a keyboard.

New Zealand agency sites must comply with a level of accessibility in the WCAG 2.0 guidelines called ‘double A’, as well as some requirements specific to NZ government. Double A includes, among other things, captions for video including live video streams.

Australian federal, state and territory websites must comply with the basic WCAG 2.0 accessibility level by 31 December 2012 and all federal websites must be double A-compliant by 31 December 2014.

At a glance

Here are the kinds of things you will need to do in order for your site to comply with WCAG 2.0, based on the summary from W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative:

Content – seeing and hearing
•    Provide text alternatives for non-text content
•    Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
•    Create content that can be presented in different ways without losing meaning
•    Generally make your site easy on the eye and the ear

Functionality – how your site works
•    Make all features available from a keyboard
•    Give users enough time to read and use content
•    Avoid seizure-inducing graphics
•    Help with navigation and finding content

The common sense stuff (that’s actually not so common)
•    Make text easy to digest
•    Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
•    Help users avoid and correct mistakes
•    Maximise compatibility with current and future user tools

Adcorp does accessibility!

Adcorp is really well suited to helping you with accessibility. We have a long history of working with government and understand regulatory mandates. We can provide accessibility audits on your existing sites quickly and cheaply. We also know that often accessibility decisions will be commercial – we’ll be able to advise on what accessibility practices give the best return on investment.

We believe that web designers and website owners can minimise the possibility of disability discrimination without sacrificing the richness and variety of communication offered by the web and web-based technologies.

To discuss how Adcorp can help your organisation meet WCAG requirement s and develop best practice in the design of accessible websites, contact your nearest Adcorp Office.

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