Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2016

For most people, using the web is an activity taken for granted. For people who suffer from disabilities however, the Internet can sometimes be an inhospitable place.

Why we care about Web Accessibility

We at Seamless care about web accessibility because we believe in the Internet, where we leave no-one behind.

There are many Australians living with disabilities. For some people, technology might be their only means to communicate and to obtain important information and news. If a website is not made in an accessible manner it may exclude this segment of the population that stands to gain the most from the Internet. We need to make sure we take them along for the ride and make them a part of the 'web user' community; thus allowing them to also understand, perceive, navigate, contribute and interact with the web.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (opens in a new window), in 2015 there were 4.3 million Australians with a disability; that's nearly one in five people (18.3% of the total population). Also, out of 15.4 million Australians living in households who were of working age (15 to 65 years), there were over two million people with a disability, that's one in seven people! Amongst the elderly population (65 years and over) the reported percentage of people living with a disability increases dramatically to 50.7%. As you can see, this is a big demography.

Disabilities can affect our grandparents, parents, children, colleagues, siblings, friends, neighbours; the list can go on and on. Accessibility is all about inclusion and taking care of every person, no matter what their physical and mental needs are. Web accessibility as such is not a new concept. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and Director of W3C (opens in a new window), has commented that "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." Full press release from the W3C (opens in a new window).


Benefits of Web Accessibility

Commercial & Technical

Accessibility increases a websites' use, it is most cost effective, produces a higher quality and highly flexible website viewing experience. Additionally, it will:

  • Increase the audience reach
  • Increase the positive image of your company or organisation
  • Decrease the need for creating multiple versions of a site for difference devices, with responsive sites enabling content to work on different screen sizes, web browsers and with different assistive technologies

Legal

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities and promotes equal rights, equal access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Read the act on the legislation website (opens in a new window).

According to the Digital Service Standard, released by the Australian Government's Digital Transformation Office, government agencies are expected to ensure their service if accessible to all users regardless of their ability and environment. Read the standard on the DTO website (opens in a new window).

Ethical

Accessibility contributes to build a better society. As mentioned by the W3C (opens in a new window) "It is essential that the web be accessible in order to provide an equal opportunity and equal access to people with disabilities. People with disabilities can more actively participate in society with an accessible web."


Experience what someone with Macular Degeneration might see a webpage

Putting yourself in the shoes of someone with Macular Degeneration is quite eye opening and also very simple. The images below are a simulation of the effect that this disability has on people. It can cause fuzzy areas and spots to appear that block vision. Text and images can appear broken and unclear.

An example of what someone might see if they suffer from Macular Degeneration when looking at a person in front of them An example of what someone might see if they suffer from Macular Degeneration when looking at a paragraph of text in front of them

To experience this yourself simply raise your hand in front of your face about 30cm from your eyes so that you can't see straight in front of you but you can see around the edges of your hand. Now, without looking to the sides, try to read something in your peripheral vision. Remember to keep looking straight at your hand! This exercise shows how difficult it can be for individuals with advanced Macular Degeneration to see anything directly in front of them. The problem isn't so pronounced for people with lesser degrees of degeneration but the basic idea is the same.

For more information about Macular Degeneration you can visit the Vision Australia website (opens in a new window). If you are wanting to teach others about visual disabilities you can order special glasses from Vision Australia (opens in a new window) that help to demonstrate what it is like to see through other peoples' eyes and experience what they go through every day.


Tips for Content Authors

Give your content a unique title

Using a strong, unique and meaningful title that will clearly describe the purpose of your content. This will not only assist screen readers, but also search engines.

Use headings to organise content

Structure headings with the correct hierarchy, for the purpose of organising your content (not as a way to style text). Do not skip heading levels, such as a level 4 heading (ie. <h4>) being a direct sub-heading of a level 2 heading (ie. <h2>). Make your heading text meaningful.

Use plain English

Keep your language simple. If acronyms, jargon or technical language is required, provide plain English alternatives or a glossary.

Make your text easy to read

Choose left-aligned text, rather than justified text, to improve readability. Use lists, ordered and unordered, to present appropriate content.

Make link descriptive

Use a meaningful description as the text for each link. This will assist those who use screen readers and those who just skim the content of web pages. Do not use generic descriptions such as "Click here" and "More info"; these are meaningless when not read in context.

Use meaningful alternative text for images

Use an alternative text description that would tell a visually-impaired person what is being shown in the image. Do not use the name of the image file. If an image is purely decorative, an alternative text description is not required.

Provide text alternatives for audio/video

Add synchronised captions to your video files. Include a full text transcript for both audio and video files either within the same webpage or in a link immediately after the audio/video player.

Use tables appropriately

When presenting data use an actual table (ie. <table>), not an image of a table. Ensure table headings are used and table data is associated with those headings. Using the <caption> element provides a caption that identifies and acts as a heading for the table. Do not use tables for content layout purposes.

Pay attention to colour contrast

Before applying colours to the text and background of your content, consider the contrast of those colours. Use a colour contrast checker to confirm the combination at least meets WCAG 2.0 AA level for normal size text.

Images of text are bad

Avoid using images of text except for purely decorative purpose or for logos. Use real text or ensure a text alternative is made available (eg. use the alt attribute of the <img> element).


Related Content

All of the links presented within this article are listed below: