TMCnet Feature
July 29, 2022

Kerry W. Kirby Shares The Importance of Following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines When Building a Website



Business owners must ensure their website is accessible to everyone. This means following what is known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) when building your website. Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, technology innovator Kerry W. Kirby of 365 Connect, who has published one of the most extensive whitepapers on this subject, knows that if you don't follow these guidelines, you will not only miss out on a large portion of your audience, but open yourself up the risk on litigation. We will discuss the importance of following WCAG and provide tips on how to do so.



What Are Web Accessibility Guidelines?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C (News - Alert)), as the standard needed to make one’s website ADA compliant. The W3C is a non-governmental, international consortium devoted to the development of protocols and guidelines for the World Wide Web. W3C’s global community of accessibility experts have created the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to develop these guidelines, with input from individuals and organizations around the world.

WCAG guidelines provide guidance on coding best practices for creating websites that are easy for people with a wide range of disabilities, including blindness, low vision, deafness, and limited mobility to use. With approximately 15 percent, or 1 billion people across the globe, living with a disability, it is critical that web developers building sites to follow the latest digital accessibility criteria.

Kerry W. Kirby states, “While some website builders may view web accessibility guidelines as an added burden, it is essential to remember that following these standards can make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Moreover, accessible websites are better organized and easier for everyone to use, not just for those with disabilities. Adhering to web accessibility guidelines is a good practice for all website builders.”

Why Are Web Accessibility Guidelines Important?

Despite the growing need for change, digital accessibility continues to be a sidebar for many businesses when it comes to web development. As the Internet has impacted the way we search for information, respond to advertisements, make purchasing decisions, and exchange money; access to online information, tools, resources, and services should not be limited, especially to people living with a disability.

In addition to promoting equality, following web accessibility standards can positively impact your business. For example, 80 percent of users with disabilities have stated that they will spend more time, and potentially money, on a website that has improved accessibility features. Through eliminating barriers surrounding online access, businesses can open up their products and services to an entire new market.

Building to WCAG standards can also boost your search engine position, as the heart of both web accessibility and SEO are seamless user experiences, which Google (News - Alert) and other popular search engines use to determine which websites best fit user queries before ranking them accordingly. Great user experiences make navigating a website easy and intuitive, regardless of the end-user’s range of abilities. Therefore, it’s of little surprise that many best practices associated with online accessibility and SEO overlap.

How Do You Make Sure Your Website is Accessible to Everyone?

Kerry W. Kirby shares that bringing your digital services into compliance will not be a one and done solution. WCAG will continue to evolve at a rapid rate; therefore, keeping pace with the latest version will require a dedicated team of developers, designers, and researchers willing to stay abreast with the most recent updates. Keep in mind, WC3 currently has over 400 members that contribute to creating an array of guidelines, code examples, and standards, which can make keeping up with changes a daunting task.

When writing your content, be sure to use clear and concise language to make it easier for screen readers to “speak it” back to visually impaired users. You should also break up your text into short paragraphs and use headings and subheadings to help readers find the information they are seeking. In addition, all your images should have alternative (ALT) text that describes them to make them screen reader friendly. Use a consistent layout throughout your site, with easy-to-understand navigation, and the ability to click through pages using only a keyboard.

In addition, you will need to ensure that your website forms, chatbots, and any login screens include proper labeling and instructions on all form elements and provide alternative methods for completing tasks, such as submitting those forms. Finally, you should test your website regularly to ensure it is updated to the latest WCAG guidelines. Enlisting experts to maintain an ongoing compliance plan and team of accessibility experts is critical.

What Issues Can Occur When Websites Are Not Built According to Accessibility Guidelines?

Inaccessible websites are the new public barrier for those who live with a disability, and they have become a focus of thousands of lawsuits alleging that websites, mobile apps, and certain digital content fail to meet WCAG standards. With an array of court victories and high-profile settlements paving the way, many websites are an easy target. Not having your website built to meet digital accessibility standards can open your business up to an array of legal risk.

One in four American adults is disabled, making digital accessibility more critical than ever. As we continue to shift to working, shopping, and accessing services online, many gaps continue to surface when it comes to delivering equal access to these users. From the absence of captioning capabilities to the disregard of structing code for screen readers, these voids create barriers in access to telehealth, education, and even government websites.

Kerry W. Kirby states, “Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed almost 30 years ago, its core elements are just as important today as they were in 1990 when President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law. To date, the ADA is the most comprehensive U.S. law designed to protect individuals with disabilities because its mandates that businesses should make “reasonable modifications” to serve people with disabilities, and websites should be no different.”

Conclusion

Website builders need to follow web accessibility guidelines to do their part in promoting digital equality, inclusion, and limiting business risk. You can ensure your website is accessible to everyone, by staying up to date with the latest changes to WCAG, manually auditing your website for compliance, and publishing an “Accessibility Statement” on your website, stating who is responsible for operating the site, what compliance level has been achieved, and how they are monitoring updates. In short, be open to your site visitors about your accessibility efforts.  

In conclusion, Kerry W. Kirby added, “As the world continues to become increasingly interconnected, technology adoption repeatedly proves itself as a defining factor in human progress. It is our responsibility, as a society, to ensure that no one is left in the dark.”


 
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