Accessibility: It isn’t a Passing Phase

A web designer group where I am a member had this post…

“I have a potential client who just got sued for their site not being accessible.”

Via a Private Internet Group

What does it mean to be accessible, and is my website at risk? Whether your website serves the United States or an international market, your website should be accessible. If it isn’t accessible, yes, you could be sued.

Accessibility on the web is about making your website available to those with disabilities. It isn’t just for those with visual impairments. It could be for people who might be dyslexic, have slow internet speeds, or can’t manipulate a mouse easily. This could mean auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual issues. Accessibility could mean that a Screen Reader can easily read it or that the text is easier to read with the browser magnification (CTR and + sign) and contrasting colors.

So, are lawsuits a real possibility? The short answer is yes. Please note that although websites should be “accessible,” web resources are guidelines because ADA regulations haven’t kept up with technology. On the other hand, if you haven’t made any effort to meet those written guidelines, you could be at risk, especially if you are a resource for people who could be someone with color blindness, physically or mentally disabled, or elderly, for example. Honestly, you never know which visitors will be stopping by to browse.

What can you do? Some things could be easy. Use colors that contrast, making text easier to read. According to WCAG, contrast ratios should be at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text. What does that mean?

Unsatisfactory Low Contrast

Satisfactory Contrast

Another thing that is easy to do is to be sure that all interactive features, buttons, and links are clear and easily identifiable. For example, most links should be colored and underlined. Because someone with color blindness wouldn’t necessarily see the color and would lose the opportunity to learn more information or find the information they seek.

WCAG is broadly broken down into four principles

  • Perceivable: Users must be able to perceive it in some way, using one or more of their senses.
  • Operable: Users must be able to control UI elements (e.g. buttons must be clickable in some way — mouse, keyboard, voice command, etc.).
  • Understandable: The content must be understandable to its users.
  • Robust: The content must be developed using well-adopted web standards that will work across different browsers, now and in the future.
Four Principles: Mozilla

Those with tremors or people unable to use a mouse often rely on touch screens or keyboards to navigate. As a matter of fact, people accessing your website from a phone have to rely on touch. As a result, buttons should be easy to touch with a finger or stylus pen. If links are too close together, it could be difficult to navigate. Try and navigate your website with just your keyboard using the arrows or tabs. Is it frustrating? How about listening to it with a screen reader? You can download one as a browser extension just to get a feel for this challenge. Who knows? You might find it helpful! (COnsider the extension Speechify text to speech voice reader}

This just touches the surface of Web Accessibility, but it is an important part, even if unseen by many, of your website. I have posted some resources to learn more below.