What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is a trending topic in the world of website development. Simply put, web accessibility means that all websites, tools and applications are designed in a way to make them accessible for users with disabilities such as hearing problems, blindness or cognitive or motor impairments.
There are several assistive technologies that web developers can leverage, for instance, videos with captions to assist those with hearing disabilities, and audio or screen reader technology for those who are unable to read. Similarly, people with dyslexia have limited abilities to read the printed word, and using assistive technologies allow such online users to both view and hear the words at the same time.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities in several areas and mandates equal access to all the public services to state and local government’s programs and services. While the Act does not specifically mention web accessibility, it has become the accepted practice with public service websites following ADA guidelines to ensure equal access to all. Similarly, several other countries have followed suit and now most website developers worldwide are using accessibility best practices to ensure that they are able to offer an inclusive experience.
Also Read: How to Make Your Website ADA/WCAG Compliant
How does accessibility testing improve your website performance?
With the Internet now an integral part of our lives, it is important that people with disabilities are able to enjoy equal access to information and opportunities on their own. Accessibility is a means to avoid discrimination and provide access to information to all. If you have designed and developed your website, you may use the service of an accessibility testing service provider to improve your website performance and ensure it follows all the relevant guidelines.
A reliable accessibility testing service provider with sound knowledge of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – W3C’s WCAG 1.0/WCAG 2.0 – will ensure that your website follows all the latest standards for digital accessibility of web content on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. These guidelines define how to make websites accessible to people with disabilities including auditory, visual, physical, speech, cognitive, language, and learning, and for people with neurological disabilities.
With accessibility testing you can ensure that your website is reachable to all people without any barriers. It is important to note that web accessibility testing is not just limited to the website but includes mobile/tablet applications as well. An accessibility testing service provider will ensure that your website is:
Perceivable: The user interface is easy to use and information flow is clear and perceivable by the user. For instance, Alt text is provided for images.
Operable: This implies that the user interface navigation is both usable and operable. As a case point, the accessibility service provider will verify that your website provides keyboard navigation such that every link on the web page can be accessed with a keyboard stroke.
Understandable: The website must have assistive technologies to help people with disabilities access your content. Then there are other features the service provider will check for, for instance type of font and font size, background color and color of text etc.
WCAG – The Road to Making Businesses Accessible
Benefits of hiring a web accessibility testing service provider
Extend your audience reach: For one, you can improve your audience reach by making your website accessible to people with disabilities. While it is near impossible to cater to all types of disabilities, by following accessibility best practices you can greatly expand your audience reach.
Build your brand: In the era of digital activism, people are more likely to engage with brands that follow ethical practices. In the online world, nothing represents your brand like your website. By ensuring accessible content, you can strengthen your brand, and also engage and interact with people.
Satisfied and impressed by their experience on your inclusive website, they are more likely to turn into your brand evangelists, providing powerful word-of-mouth marketing within their social circles, both online and offline.
Improve your SEO: By following accessibility best practices, you will also be able to ensure that your content is properly indexed by Google, resulting in higher listing in search results. It is seen that search engine bots consume content in a way similar to people with disabilities using assistive technologies, and so, with an inclusive website you will be able to achieve higher visibility.
Future-proof your business: As the market environment becomes more politically correct, businesses will sooner or later have to implement web accessibility guidelines. With an accessible website, you can thus secure your business against any libels, lawsuits and fines in the future.
It is estimated that about 1 in 5 people have some sort of disability. So, if the website or app that you are building follows accessibility guidelines, you will be able to reach more people with disabilities.
Apart from fulfilling your social responsibility in ensuring equal access to information, you will also grow your audience. A website built with accessibility in mind will have rich text, which is more identifiable and consumable for search engine bots. Thus, your content is more likely to receive higher rankings in search engines, improving the visibility of your website to your target audience.
By making your digital content accessible, you can greatly improve the user experience, for example, assistive technologies such as screen reading technologies simplify the reading experience for the visually impaired. Similarly, using alt text, graphics, the right font, contrasting background and text colors can greatly improve the reader’s engagement with your website. There is also a need to focus on navigation and ensure that the menu buttons and navigation are consistent across all web pages.
As consumers grow more aware, they are more likely to engage with companies that are socially responsible and follow ethical business practices. An accessible website and app is a great way to showcase your social responsibility towards your audience and build their trust and loyalty.
With so much at stake, website accessibility testing becomes extremely important to ensure an inclusive user experience. As digital technologies become an integral part of our lives, no section of the society should remain bereft of information or opportunity. Also, during the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, a lot of businesses have shifted online including education, healthcare, entertainment, banking, insurance and many more. It has therefore become extremely crucial for online content publishers to ensure that their website is accessible. And the way to ensure this is to hire the services of an experienced accessibility service provider to help you achieve just that.
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