Making websites fully accessible can be time consuming and sometimes impractical, but it’s not optional:

Equal access for people with a disability is required by law (under the Disability Discrimination Act) where it can reasonably be provided. This requirement applies to any individual or organisation developing a website or other web resource in Australia.

Equal access is a human right (UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities). Parties must provide “information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost”.

Failure to provide full access to the web and other internet-based technologies for people with a disability may be seen as a violation of human rights.

If that’s not enough incentive consider that Coles and the Canadian government have been sued for having inaccessible websites.

So, what is the minimum level of accessibility we should comply with?

WCAG provide guidelines but these are simply a guide (unless you’re a government organisation).

Here’s a list of common accessibility failures which account for a significant portion of problems (adapted from this list). I think a lot of these are achievable under most circumstances.

  1. Failure to include appropriate text descriptions (such as “alt-text” labels) for images and non-text content; (Should consider the context of the image – don’t repeat words found in image captions or related headings)
  2. Failure to provide accessible alternatives when using a visual CAPTCHA;
  3. Failure to use technologies (such as Flash and JavaScript) in ways that are accessible;
  4. Failure to use HTML features appropriately to indicate content structure such as the hierarchy of headings (and semantic tags such as header, footer etc);
  5. Failure to explicitly associate form input controls with their labels (all form inputs should have a label);
  6. Failure to ensure sufficient difference between foreground (text) colour and background colour; (design consideration)
  7. Failure to identify data tables with Summary or Caption, and failure to mark-up data tables correctly;
  8. Failure to provide a way for users to disable content such as advertisements from flashing rapidly (rapidly-flashing content may cause seizures in susceptible individuals), and failure to provide a way for users to stop a page from auto-refreshing;
  • Preferably provide ability to pause moving content
  1. Failure to ensure that web pages can be used from the keyboard (that is, without the mouse);
  • Specify focus / active / hover states so it’s clear when an element in interactive
  • Allow users to skip repetitive elements on the page ie: Skip to main content link visible on use of tab key only
  • Allow users to navigate & exit menus and interactive features like sliders
  1. Failure to alert the user to changes on a web page that are triggered automatically when selecting items from a dropdown menu.
  2. Ensure accessibility of PDF files and other non-HTML content.
  3. Provide transcripts for audio and video material.

There’s also challenges if integrating with a cms or using third party apps. The Disability Discrimination Act specifies that “equal access for people with a disability is required by law where it can reasonably be provided.” As long as reasonable steps are taken to achieve accessibility I believe this will meet the requirement.

Other steps you can take

  • Work with an accessibility professional
  • Work with a transcription service provider if you have video and audio content
  • Read guidelines like WCAG, ATAG, UUAG and ARIA
  • Provide an accessibility statement on your website