Accessibility compliance: What is it and why it matters?

6 Minutes

We can’t underestimate the power of digital spaces in an increasingly interconnected world. From social media platforms like TikTok or Instagram to ecommerce websites, the internet has transformed our lives. However, for individuals with disabilities, this digital revolution has often been accompanied by barriers that hinder their full participation and inclusion.

82% of people say they would return to spend more with a company that provides an accessible online experience.

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What is accessibility compliance?

Accessibility compliance refers to the standards and guidelines set by organizations such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that ensure that digital products are usable by people with disabilities. These standards ensure that users with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive disabilities can use the internet with the same level of ease as those without disabilities.

The importance of accessibility

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 2 billion people live with disabilities. And 20% of those people experience great functional difficulties on a daily basis. With almost 98% of the world’s top 1 million websites not offering full accessibility, well, that’s a large gap to make up. Imagine how frustrating it would be to not easily be able to fulfill regular digital actions that an able-bodied person has access to. 

You can think of accessibility tools as a service animal. They can help someone with disabilities navigate through apps, sites, and other digital environments that otherwise would not be as easy to use given someone’s mental or physical limitations.

Adding accessibility to your site

Here are the main reasons why more websites need to upgrade to comply with accessibility standards.

1. Inclusivity

Accessibility compliance helps to create a more inclusive society by ensuring that everyone, regardless of ability, can access and use digital products. This is especially important for people with disabilities who may not be able to easily access the same information and services as abled people outside of the web in their day-to-day.

2. Better user experience

Accessibility compliance leads to a better user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. For example, having transcripts and captions for videos makes them easy for anyone to consume and understand. Accessibility compliance can also improve the user experience for people with temporary disabilities, such as a broken arm or temporary visual impairment.

3. Increased reach

By making more digital products accessible, organizations can reach a wider audience and attract more customers. Things like adding alternative text to images make the content more readable for users with visual impairments but also can also improve search engine optimization (SEO). Your content reaches a wider audience, which is useful to you and provides more to your users and potential new audiences. 

4. Legal requirements

In many countries, accessibility compliance is a legal requirement. Failure to comply with accessibility standards can result in legal action and fines. The fear of legal ramifications should not be the only reason that you’re adding accessibility to your website, but it’s certainly a strong case to do so!

5. Cost-effective and an easier retrofit

It might feel counter-intuitive, but implementing accessibility compliance at the outset of a project is much more affordable than trying to add it to an existing site or app down the line. It will reduce the potential cost of legal action and potential penalties for non-compliance. 

As well, it’s a lot easier to plan out and build accessibility into your product from the beginning than trying to figure out how to fit it in later on. It will save you and your team a lot of time and headaches.

A user experience agency

Contrary to popular belief, the goal isn’t to mitigate risk (although this is certainly important). Instead, the goal is always to provide the best user experience possible to your audience—your full audience. Guidelines and regulations ensure that basic standards are adhered to in your applications, but they’re only the beginning of what you should be considering in your experience.

Applicable regulations differ from one region to another, and it’s important to familiarize yourselves with those that apply in your region to your organization. In many jurisdictions, this also means that you’re making “commercially reasonable efforts” to facilitate accessibility. 

Ensuring accessibility compliance

Accessibility isn’t and shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Getting it right for your organization starts with understanding your audience and any applicable regulations. That means looking at who will be using your website and what specific considerations you may need to take to improve their experience.

  1. As part of our initial planning and strategy process, we take a deep dive into the client’s audience and try to identify what barriers may exist when interacting with your website. If the website’s primary purpose is to share information, we want to make sure it’s readable, with support for features such as higher contrast, screen readers, and resizable type. If the website has custom functionality, we want to make sure those tools accept input from assistive technology and that navigating between inputs and other page elements is intuitive and straightforward.
  2. We also start with a foundation that we’ve developed that already meets this criteria, so that we’re never forced to rewrite, or worse, to sacrifice our support for particular accessibility requirements.
  3. Then, after building your site and moving onto the quality assurance step, our developers use a combination of real devices and software testing tools to confirm that the website functions as expected and displays properly on a variety of devices.
  4. We’ll use AI-powered software testing to emulate and test against the most well-known guidelines for accessibility and regulations, such as the W3C’s Web Content and Accessibility Guidelines and the Americans with Disabilities Act or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

More specifically, these tests include but aren’t limited to:

  • Ensuring low contrast text stays above WCAG 2 AA thresholds.
  • Testing in major web browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
  • Thoroughly proofreading the site for things such as alt text on imagery, and any applicable auto responders, tools, and notifications.
  • Checking forms for proper labelling, custom functionality, and tracking codes to ensure they’re properly implemented.
  • We also offer optional ongoing support and maintenance to make sure that your website stays above board when it comes to accessibility compliance.

More than just a buzzword

Between 2000 and 2022, internet usage increased by over 1000%. We as a society continue to become more and more online, growing relationships and sharing what makes each of us unique humans. At Twirling Umbrellas, we believe that it’s imperative to push for more accessibility in technology to allow the same opportunities to all as much as we can.