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Web Accessibility Guidelines, Legislation and Principles

When we talk about web accessibility, we are talking about a set of standards, guidelines, tools, and technologies that are designed to allow people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disability. That’s 16% of the world’s population or 1 in every 6 people.

Unfortunately, people with disabilities face many health inequities stemming from unfair conditions, including stigma, discrimination, and exclusion from education and employment.

This is why web accessibility is absolutely critical to help people with disabilities face at least somewhat fewer health and social inequities and allow equal access to the wealth of online information for everyone.

Importance of Web Accessibility Guidelines

Web accessibility addresses the following needs of people with disabilities:

  1. Speech - for people with speech disabilities such as apraxia and dysarthria
  2. Auditory - for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or suffering from a partial hearing loss
  3. Visual - for people who are blind or have low vision
  4. Physical - for people with disabilities that affect their physical capacity and/or mobility, such as limited movement and photosensitivity
  5. Cognitive - for people with intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, etc.
  6. Neurological - for people with epilepsy, learning disabilities, neuromuscular disorders, attention deficit disorder, brain tumors, cerebral palsy, etc.

But web accessibility isn't just about making websites accessible for people with disabilities but also for those with poor internet connection and low bandwidth. This includes those with situational limitations, as well. For example, those unable to listen to audio due to being in noisy or quiet environments or those using smaller screens, such as smartwatches. Web content accessibility guidelines take those into consideration, as well.

Web Accessibility Legislation

Web accessibility is not only a courtesy to people with disabilities and others; it’s also a legal requirement in the UK for public and private sector organizations. Specifically, the UK legislation is based on the international standard for web accessibility, also known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG.

The purpose of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG is to offer a range of guidelines, and principles to provide a single shared standard that makes website accessibility possible for desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. They are there to ensure website accessibility to a wider range of people with disabilities and make more users, in general, able to access web content easily.

Web Accessibility Principles

The WCAG includes four major principles of web accessibility that every website can reference and apply whenever possible. Those are: making your web content perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

1) Perceivable

All website visitors must be able to accurately see and read your content. This means that your accessible website must not exclude people with vision loss, hearing loss, and other disabilities. Ways to make content meet these accessibility requirements include the following:

  1. Offer captions or subtitles, audio descriptions, sign language, transcripts, etc. for video and other multimedia content. This will improve web accessibility for screen readers.
  2. Provide text alternatives for non-text content so that it can be changed into braille, symbols, large print, etc.; image alt text is most commonly used to meet this guideline.
  3. Develop content that can be presented in many different ways, such as a more straightforward layout that removes accessibility barriers.
  4. Simplify the process of seeing and hearing content such as separating foreground from the background elements, utilizing color contrast, adjusting or turning off background audio, etc.

2) Operable

Website content should be responsive and simple to navigate for all users, meaning that a website interface shouldn’t require an action that some users may not be able to perform. Here are some guidelines that will help make your content operable:

  1. Help users navigate your website and find content easier with elements such as a clear page title, useful links, and proper headings
  2. Make every function available through a keyboard rather than a mouse
  3. Avoid content such as blinking or flashing lights that may cause seizures and other physical reactions
  4. Allow options to use other inputs instead of a keyboard
  5. Give users ample time to engage with the website content

3) Understandable

Organize website content so that it’s easy to use, intuitive to navigate, and features language that is understandable to all users. To help make your content understandable, apply the following guidelines:

  1. Avoid language that is jumbled, verbose, and difficult for visitors to interpret (for example, technical jargon and regional slang)
  2. Ensure that your text is clear, readable and easily digestible
  3. Offer text in more languages
  4. Make navigation readily available for users on all pages, most commonly on the page's header and/or footer
  5. Organize pages intuitively and logically
  6. Provide a clear description of error messages and help users avoid or correct mistakes as needed

4) Robust

Web content should be robust enough that it can be accessible and reliably interpreted by a wide variety of technological tools. In other words:

  1. Make web content compatible with assistive technology tools commonly used by users with disabilities
  2. Maximize capabilities for current and future assistive technology tools
  3. Ensure that your HTML code is well-written for the purposes of accessibility (e.g., use start and end tags when required, avoid duplicate IDs across elements, etc.)

How Subly Can Improve Web Accessibility

Subly offers numerous features that can help you improve web accessibility for your content, like creating subtitles and captions for your online videos.

With Subly, you can automatically add highly accurate subtitles or captions to video in over 30 languages and dialects, or let professional transcribers create 99% accurate subtitles and captions for you in English. Subly also offers various options to style and edit your subtitles and captions so that they are clearly and easily readable.

In addition, you can translate your subtitles and captions to 73 languages (and counting) in mere minutes, convert video to audio files and vice versa, quickly transcribe video and audio content, as well as easily edit your videos in ways that can make them more accessible.

In all these ways (and more!), Subly can help improve web accessibility for your content, thus increasing your website traffic and helping you engage with a wider audience than ever before.  

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