Create Accessible Websites

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Image via Unsplash.com

Image via Unsplash.com

Why should web designers and developers create accessible websites?

There are 19 million Americans living with one ore more disabilities. Some of these disabilities are discernible to the outside observer: vision impairment, hearing impairment, and muscular impairment (for example). Many disabilities are not obvious to outsiders such as color blindness, glaucoma, dyslexia, and memory loss (among many others). The sheer volume of individuals that may require accommodations online make web accessibility imperative.

Why else should web designers and developers create accessible websites?

Accessible website are required by law. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Reauthorized Rehabilitation Act of 1998 (aka Section 508) protect individuals with disabilities and their right to access information.

 “… individuals with disabilities who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by such members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities. “

The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) also protects individuals.

“…prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations and requires places of public accommodation and commercial facilities to be designed, constructed, and altered in compliance with the accessibility standards established by this part.”

What guides web designs and developers to create accessible websites?

The international best practice standards for web code and content. WCAG 2.0 is based around four principles of accessibility. It describes WHAT, not HOW.

POUR:

  1. Perceivable,
  2. Operable,
  3. Understandable,
  4. Robust

There are three levels of WCAG 2.0 standards: Levels A, AA, and AAA. Karl Groves at KarlGroves.com distinguishes between the three levels in this way:

  • Level A: A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.
  • Level AA: A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents. (NOTE: this is the level we are contractually obligated to provide.)
  • Level AAA: A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

Now that we know why we should create accessible website and what should guide us, we’ll talk specifics in a follow-up post.

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About the Author
Kylie Larson is a content wrangler, helping both small businesses and large organizations get their message up and out. When she's not writing and organizing online, you'll find her walking the dog, with a camera in hand, riding the Chicago blue line, and in the midst of a home renovation project that never ends. Connect with her on Twitter @kylieslarson.

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