Website accessibility is concerned with making websites accessible to all. People with disabilities should not be discriminated against. An accessible website needs to be designed and built with accessibility in mind.
The Equality Act 2010 and Websites
The Equality Act 2010 is legislation to legally protect people from discrimination in many scenarios, including websites that provide services. Prior to 2010, the Disability Discrimination Act 1996 (DDA) legislation included similar requirements for websites.
Please note that we are not lawyers and this post does not constitute legal advice.
Why Should you Comply?
The Equality Act is the law and therefore it is best to ensure your website complies. If you don’t comply, you could face legal issues. In addition there could be damage to your reputation and trust.
As well as complying with the law, there are other benefits. This includes making your website more usable to people without disabilities, as well as improvements to device compatibility and potential improved search engine ranking.
Website Accessibility Levels
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have produced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that are a shared standard for web content accessibility. WCAG 2.1 is the current standard and each guideline has three levels of compliance – ‘A’ (the lowest), ‘AA’, and ‘AAA’ (the highest). For a website to comply with the Equality Act, the government haven’t stated a WCAG level – however the consensus is that at least level ‘A’ should be achieved. ‘AA’ is a higher level, which many websites aim to comply with and is required for public sector websites. ‘AAA’ is very high and significant effort is required to fully comply.
Key Areas of WCAG and Examples of Compliance
The four key areas of the WCAG are listed below, with the top level guidelines for each. Beside each top level guideline, we have included an example of level ‘A’ compliance for a sub-guideline. Please note – most categories have several sub-guidelines that you’d need to comply with.
- Text alternatives – Ensure images have ‘alt’ text, which describes the image.
- Time-based media (e.g. audio/video) – If video is used, provide a text based equivalent of that information.
- Adaptability – Use H1 to H6 to identify headings, to help users understand the hierarchy.
- Distinguishable – Ensure that information conveyed by colour is also available in text.
- Keyboard Accessible – Make sure the website is usable with a keyboard.
- Enough Time – Ensure there are controls to stop moving or blinking content
- Seizures and Physical Reactions – Do not use anything that flashes more than three times in a one second period.
- Navigable – Ensure links can be determined from the link text alone – i.e. Don’t use ‘Click here’!
- Input Modalities – Allow navigation with a single point – e.g. don’t require multipoint gestures
- Readable – Ensure the language of the website is specified in the mark-up
- Predictable – Don’t perform actions on focus – e.g. do instead with button click
- Input Assistance – If an input error occurs, clearly identify this to the user in text
- Compatible – Ensure the HTML mark-up can be correctly passed – e.g. has proper start and end tags.
How to Comply With The WCAG?
If you have an existing website and wish to comply with the WCAG, the best starting point is an review/audit that includes accessibility compliance. Firstly you need to decide which level of compliance you wish to adhere to – ‘A’, ‘AA’ or ‘AAA’. Then your website would be checked against each of the guidelines and determine if you comply. For any that you don’t comply with, changes would need to be made.
If you having a new website created and want to be compliant with the WCAG, you need to ensure you select an agency who has experience and capability to ensure you comply. You would need to decide on a level of compliance ‘A’, ‘AA’ or ‘AAA’ and then as part of the build of your website, the agency would ensure the elements of the site comply to that level.
As well as your website ‘code’, you also need to ensure that any content you update or add to the site is also compliant. For example using ‘alt’ text on images you add, ensuring links don’t use words like ‘click below’ or ‘click here’ etc.