Compliance rule law and regulation graphic
Home » Digital Accessibility » What is digital accessibility?

What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility refers to the practice of designing and developing digital content and technologies that can be used by everyone, including those with disabilities. Just as buildings install wheelchair ramps and offer Braille as an alternative to printed materials to ensure physical accessibility, the digital world also requires similar considerations. This encompasses websites, mobile applications, documents, and multimedia content. By adhering to accessibility standards and best practices, organisations can create inclusive digital experiences that cater to diverse user needs.

Why is it important?

In today's digital age, users have diverse access needs and requirements and accessing information and services online has become an integral part of daily life. Therefore, ensuring digital accessibility is crucial to accommodate all users effectively.

However, for millions of people worldwide, navigating digital platforms can pose significant challenges due to disabilities or impairments. We are committed to ensuring that digital content and services are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities.

One of the key principles of digital accessibility is ensuring that content is perceivable. This means providing alternatives for non-text content, such as images and videos, so that individuals who are blind or have low vision can access information through screen readers or other assistive technologies. It also involves designing interfaces that are easy to navigate and understand, regardless of a user's sensory or cognitive abilities.

Another crucial aspect of digital accessibility is ensuring operability. This involves making sure that users can interact with digital content and functionalities using various input methods, such as keyboards, touchscreens, or voice commands. Additionally, it's essential to avoid relying solely on mouse-based interactions, as some individuals may have difficulty using them.

Furthermore, digital accessibility encompasses making content understandable. This involves using clear and concise language, organising information in a logical manner, and providing adequate instructions and feedback. By enhancing the clarity and comprehensibility of digital content, organisations can facilitate better understanding and engagement for all users.

Implementing effective accessibility practices isn't just advantageous for people with disabilities; it's beneficial for everyone. Imagine that someone has an ear infection, struggling to hear and watching a video with captions on. Or someone that broke or injured an arm playing sports using speech-to-text to write a message. Many of us rely on accessibility features in our daily lives without even realising it.

How can this be achieved?

Several key aspects of digital accessibility exist to make this possible:

  1. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG provides a set of guidelines for making web content more accessible. It covers aspects such as perceivibility, operability, understandability, and robustness. WCAG is widely adopted as a standard for digital accessibility.
  2. Accessible Design Practices: Designing digital content with accessibility in mind involves practices such as using high-contrast colors, providing alternative text for images, ensuring keyboard navigation, and designing for screen reader compatibility.
  3. Assistive Technologies: These are tools and technologies that help people with disabilities interact with digital content. Examples include screen readers for visually impaired users, voice recognition software for users with mobility impairments, and captioning for users who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  4. Accessible Document Formats: Ensuring that documents, such as PDFs or Word documents, are accessible involves techniques like properly structuring content with headings, using descriptive hyperlinks, and ensuring compatibility with screen readers.
  5. Mobile Accessibility Guidelines: With the increasing use of mobile devices, it's essential to consider accessibility on mobile platforms. Guidelines and best practices exist for making mobile apps accessible to users with disabilities.
  6. Accessibility Testing: This involves evaluating digital content to ensure it meets accessibility standards. Testing may involve using automated tools, manual inspection, and user testing with people who have disabilities.
  7. Legal Requirements and Standards: Many countries have laws and regulations mandating digital accessibility, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States or the EU Web Accessibility Directive in Europe. These laws often reference standards like WCAG.
  8. Training and Education: Educating designers, developers, and content creators about the importance of accessibility and how to implement it effectively is crucial for improving digital accessibility.

What is digital accessibility policy compliance?

Ensuring accessibility is not just a matter of good practice—it's a legal obligation outlined in the United Kingdom Equality Act of 2010. Failure to meet accessibility requirements for your website or app could result in legal consequences.

For websites, compliance is guided by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which offer detailed instructions on enhancing web content accessibility for individuals with disabilities. These guidelines comprise specific criteria that can be tested for compliance.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a branch of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), oversees the maintenance of WCAG. WCAG version 2.1 was endorsed as a W3C recommendation in June 2018, with version 2.2 slated for finalisation in 2023 and version 3 currently in development.

Moreover, the Public Sector Bodies (Website and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR 2018) pertain specifically to the public sector. These regulations mandate that public sector organisations ensure accessibility for their websites and mobile applications.

We offer a range of accessibility services to help organisations improve their digital offerings. Our expert consultants work with clients to assess their current digital accessibility status, identify areas for improvement, and implement effective solutions. From accessibility audits and user testing to training and ongoing support, we provide comprehensive assistance to ensure that digital content and services meet the needs of all users.

In conclusion, digital accessibility is not just a legal requirement or a moral obligation; it's a fundamental aspect of creating an inclusive online environment. By embracing digital accessibility principles and practices, organisations can empower everyone to participate fully in the digital world, regardless of their abilities.