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Accessibility is key

Web accessibility aims to deliver equal access to the information and/or services available on a website. It’s common practice for most websites to reach a minimum standard under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Salsa Digital 3 January 2017

Creating accessible websites

There are lots of elements that come together to create a great website — a visually appealing design, content that’s written specifically for the web, a user-friendly interface, and easy-to-follow site name a few. Another key area of importance is accessibility, which refers to a website that’s developed with all users in mind to ensure everyone has equal access to the information and/or services available on the site.

Accessibility standards

Nowadays, most websites ensure they reach a minimum standard when it comes to accessibility. This is across all websites, and government bodies usually have a minimum standard set out in their policy documents. For example, at the federal level the Digital Standards Agency (DTA), sets out 13 items in its Digital Service Standard, and number 9 is Make it accessible. This specifically calls for federal sites to meet WCAG 2.0AA.

Accessibility in Victoria

The Victorian Government Website Management Framework on Accessibility also specifies that all websites must conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA. In addition, Victorian Government websites must be compliant with the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0, which set out guidelines for creating web content authoring tools (i.e. content management systems). Note: We won’t review these guidelines in this blog.

What is WCAG 2.0?

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and it’s a global directive on best practice when it comes to accessibility. It’s ‘2.0’ because that’s the current ‘version’ of the guidelines — hence WCAG 2.0. These standards/guidelines are used in many different countries across both corporate and government sites.

Within these guidelines are three levels:

  1. A
  2. AA
  3. AAA

Salsa Digital generally develops websites at AA, meaning they meet A and AA standards.

The guidelines

WCAG 2.0 is split into four overarching principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Within these principles are 12 guidelines, which “provide the framework and overall objectives”. From here, we have the success criteria, which are testable criteria and provide the three levels of conformity — A, AA and AAA.

As an additional level of detail and direction, the working group also provides techniques that fall into two categories: sufficient and advisory. As the terms suggest, sufficient are techniques for the site to meet the success criteria in that area, whereas advisory techniques go beyond the criteria.

The principles, guidelines, success criteria, and techniques work together to create content that’s as accessible as possible, to the widest group of people.

Below are the principles and guidelines, taken from WCAG 2.0:

  • “Principle 1: Perceivable — Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

    • Guideline 1.1 Text Alternatives: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

    • Guideline 1.2 Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media.

    • Guideline 1.3 Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

    • Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

  • Principle 2: Operable — User interface components and navigation must be operable.

    • Guideline 2.1 Keyboard Accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.

    • Guideline 2.2 Enough Time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.

    • Guideline 2.3 Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.

    • Guideline 2.4 Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

  • Principle 3: Understandable — Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

    • Guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.

    • Guideline 3.2 Predictable: Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

    • Guideline 3.3 Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

  • Principle 4: Robust — Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

    • Guideline 4.1 Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.”

WCAG 2.1

WCAG 2.1 is currently in development and will supersede WCAG 2.0 next year.

Salsa Digital’s take

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a fantastic way to ensure all the sites we build are as accessible as possible...for as many users as possible. We’ve been following the standards since we first opened our doors and we’re across all the techniques to ensure we deliver AA websites.

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