Website Accessibility: Democratizing the Reach Of Your Content

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By Suhita Ghatak Oct 20, 2021
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In 2015, a survey by the Census Bureau of the United States revealed that around 56.7 million Americans have some kind of disability, ranging from vision, hearing, cognitive, mental, or emotional impairment. The US Accessibility law ensures equal treatment and opportunities for those with any form of disability. So, when the physical world is structured to be inclusive and accessible by the impaired, the digital world should also be similarly structured. However, not many enterprises consider web accessibility a vital priority. As a result, a large number of websites do not adhere to the W3C standards. 

Interestingly, businesses are unaware that the lack of accessibility not only affects users, but also their website. In this blog, we will discuss the importance of accessibility, things that need to be done to enable accessibility, and how to check whether your website meets accessibility standards. 

What is website accessibility?

In simple terms, it is ensuring that a website works for the widest possible audience. The W3C community states it as, “web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.”

There are three types of disabilities: 

  • Permanent Disability: When someone is completely disabled. For example: blind or deaf.
  • Temporary Disability: A physical or mental disability that  hinders routine functioning for a short period of time.
  • Conditional or Situation Disability: When someone is unable to perform tasks on account of the condition or situation they may be in. For example, slow internet connection.

Why invest in accessibility? 

To provide equal access and opportunity to disabled people, therefore resulting in an increased audience and improved effectiveness.

By investing in building an accessible website, you can:

  • Widen  Your Audience

    Businesses often ignore the aspect of web accessibility, assuming that it caters to a really small section of the population, which could be their potential audience. However, the real statistics indicate otherwise. The inclusivity ranges to people who are old or even to those who may be experiencing a temporary ailment.

    Consider James for example, who is a prospective customer for your services with no existing disabilities. But one day James meets with an accident. He now has a fractured arm and a swollen eye. In this case, his temporary shortcomings like compromised motor skills and unclear vision hinders his website browsing experience. He would now need additional support in accessing a website, like a screen reader or a tab-enabled website to scroll through the content, without much hassle.

    If James needs any service in your area of expertise, he would preferably seek a company whose website is easily accessible. However, since your website does not adhere to accessibility standards, you end up losing a valuable customer like James, who is  temporarily disabled.

    Statistics indicate that in the US, a car accident occurs every 60 seconds. This equates to an average of 5.25 million accidents per year; temporarily or permanently disabling people in some way or the other. Vehicular accidents are just one factor. There are many more that affect people. An inaccessible website is not just a good-to-have option, rather a must-have for your business.

  • Drives Innovation

    It is noteworthy that by integrating accessibility, you also remove the architectural, social or digital barriers to innovation. This is primarily because content flexibility is the core essence of an accessible design. Therefore, it enables users to interact with your website in varied ways. Interestingly, Email is actually a result of innovation driven by hearing disability, and the importance of an email speaks for itself in our current digitally powered world.

    Similarly, the context flexibility helps widen your website reach in terms of devices with different screen sizes or input methods. It also plays a major role to aid the accessibility of the elderly, as well as those with low network coverage. Since accessibility is meant to aid general usability, it results in a more intuitive user experience for people across the spectrum.
  • Improve SEO

    SEO and accessibility go hand-in-hand. The accessible website requirements deliver on SEO expectations, such as: 
      • An accessible design enhances user experience
      • Structured page titles help screen readers and searchers
      • Good header structure establishes content hierarchy
      • Descriptive alt text renders context and keywords
      • Anchor text sets the user expectations and improves page relevance
      • Video transcription helps with video indexing 
      • Schema markup helps in rich media content being noticed
      • Sitemaps help users and search engine crawlers navigate pages

Building an accessible website is much easier than it seems

An accessible website is a win-win for everyone. An enterprise experiences better website performance, a user is able to access the website - frictionless, and search engines are able to comprehend and rank your website. 

With Drupal, implementing and adhering to the W3C standards becomes easier. This CMS is inherently built to make your website far more accessible by supporting assistive technologies, core, and modules. 

For instance, the Olivero theme has been designed, keeping the WCAG AA guidelines in mind; from functionality to layout, to colors, all components is accessible for everyone. That is why, when beginning with a project, developing an accessible website is an organic practice of ours. 

Here is the list of few things that can be implemented with Drupal when designing your website and the functionalities:  

  • ALT text and Descriptive Links

    ALT text refers to the description added to define an image. Adding ALT text to the images is a Drupal content management best practice and is a ‘by default’ feature. ALT text helps search engines to understand what the image is about. Moreover, when the image is not rendered, it serves as a descriptive place holder. It helps the visually impaired to understand what the image represents with the help of audio tools, such as screen readers. 

    Similarly, using proper descriptive links such as ‘click here to move to next page’, instead of simply ‘Click here’, helps the user to understand where the link will take them. Moreover, having a button instead of a link makes more sense to the user, from a semantic perspective. Speech to text support is available to aid those with hearing impairment. Captions are generated for the videos, which makes it easier for the hearing impaired to understand. 
  • Aural Alerts 

    Dynamic sections, like a slider, in a web page are very common. While these are easy to spot by users without visual disability, these might go unnoticed by support systems like screen readers. Aural alerts, now part of the Drupal core, inform the screen reader about these changes and they are read out loud. In Drupal, the core uses a JavaScript method - Drupal.announce()  to generate aural alerts.

  • Tab Control

    Tab control refers to accessing page elements, simply with the tab key. It provides a coherent experience for those willing to use a keyboard, instead of a mouse, to navigate across the webpage. In Drupal, the TabbingManager allows users to traverse through the important page elements in a logical order, using only the ‘tab’ key on the keyboard. This proves extremely handy for those with motor disabilities. 

  • Colour Contrast & Text Resizing

    Color contrast and text resizing  primarily aids those with weak eyesight, colour blindness, or visual impairment. The high contrast modules available on Drupal 7 and above allows users to switch to the high-contrast version of the theme. Enabling this is very easy; the user just needs to toggle by pressing the tab keys, once or twice. Pressing Enter activates the high contrast mode. The text resize module in Drupal enables smooth increase and decrease of the font size, which is built using jQuery. 

  • HTML Purifier

    Clean HTML code is a preliminary requirement for an accessible website. The Drupal HTMLPurifier module ensures that your HTML code is user-friendly and meets the accessibility standards. It removes the malicious code to maintain  code hygiene. It is available with Drupal 7 and above. 

Wondering if your Drupal website is accessible? Here’s a checklist

  • CKEditor Accessibility Checker Module

    As the name suggests, this contributed module allows you to check the accessibility standards of your content. Apart from detecting the key problem areas in terms of website accessibility, it also facilitates adherence to the standards. It uses the Accessibility Checker plugin, available on CKEditor.com, to execute these functionalities.

  • KOA11Y

    It is a free, platform agnostic desktop app that is primarily used by developers to automatically test a website for accessibility and detect accessibility related anomalies. However, it can be used by anyone to check for these issues on their website. 

Accessibility is above and beyond just website performance 

The future of accessibility on Drupal looks promising as developers and contributors are striving each day to make Drupal more accessible, Olivero theme being a prime example. 

An accessible website goes above and beyond just website performance . Of course, it contributes to your business metrics and outcomes, however it also builds your identity as a brand that is against bias of any kind. Add this layer of trust to your brand by showing that you care about your customers. It is only in a truly inclusive 'phygital'  world, can we survive and flourish as ecosystems. 

Whether you need help in building an accessible website or upgrading to one, our experts can chalk out the right plan for you. Connect with us right away. 

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