Understanding how your website is interpreted for people with disabilities can be difficult without a personal connection.
Volunteering WA was fortunate to host a three-part workshop with Dr. Scott Hollier from the Center for Accessibility – August 10, 17 and 24.
Scott is legally blind and has shared his story of navigating through school, higher education and the working world. Scott never let his disability hold him back, but he will tell you that browsing the web isn’t always easy for people with disabilities. 17.7% of Australians have some form of permanent disability (ABS 2019), so it makes sense to consider the accessibility of your website.
There is a moral case for website accessibility, for caring for others in our society. There are pedagogical arguments for improving accessibility to online education that can improve social mobility. There is a business case for ensuring that all customers of all abilities can purchase goods and services. And if you’re still not convinced, there’s a legal process to ensure you don’t get sued if accessibility isn’t considered. Accessible websites bring hope and independence to people living with disabilities. One of Scott’s key messages: disability + technology = independence.
People with disabilities often use assistive technologies to navigate the Internet. It can be a screen reader, a text-to-speech application that reads computer and web information. It can be a screen magnifier to enlarge the content. It can be an on-screen keyboard that allows people with limited mobility to enter information using a pointing device. These can be on-screen alerts, visual prompts that appear in certain locations, or audible sounds to help deaf people. You must be wondering; How do you know if your organization’s website will be accessible to all abilities and work effectively with these assistive technologies?
Scott told us about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These are the international standards that assess the accessibility compliance of websites. Will your website be accessible to all abilities on Windows, Macintosh, tablets and mobile phones? This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to web accessibility. The general principles of WCAG are perceptible, usable, understandable and robust and these define the necessary functionality of your website for all abilities. There is no doubt that web accessibility can be a complex and technical space for website developers, but the social, moral, educational and financial value is tangible. Making your website more accessible enables you to speak to nearly a fifth of all Australians who might not otherwise have access to your organization. Scott was a brilliant presenter who made this complex area accessible to all attendees.
If you want to learn more, Scott suggests watching the WCAG theme song here for some lighthearted fun. Otherwise, you can find it at the Center for Accessibility.