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What is Digital Accessibility? Where Does Your Website Feature on the World Accessibility Map?

2 MINUTES TO READ
What is Digital Accessibility? Where Does Your Website Feature on the World Accessibility Map?

Starting in 2021, businesses in Canada will have to audit their websites to ensure they are accessible to people with disabilities. Learn what web accessibility means and how your organization can comply with the new requirements.

What Is Web Accessibility?

According to the Web Accessibility Initiative, web accessibility refers to websites technologies, and tools developed keeping in mind people with disabilities. Accessible websites make it easy for people to engage online. Users can understand, navigate, and interact on accessible websites.

Disabilities include the following categories:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Cognitive
  • Physical
  • Neurological
  • Speech

Who Does the Law Apply to?

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, millions of Canadians rely on assistive technology to access websites. This includes 22% of Canadians over age 15. Web accessibility allows those with hearing, vision, and cognitive disabilities to use closed caption and audio devices to consume website content. However, many websites do not support these functions.

That may soon change, thanks to a new law taking effect January 1, 2021 — the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0).  WCAG is the second phase or level AA of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) passed in 2005. WCAG 2.0 outlines the requirements to provide live captions and audio descriptions as part of major web development projects and updates implemented after the effective date.

Businesses with more than 20 employees must conduct an audit of their websites prior to this date. Although the law may inconvenience website owners, it can help 6.2 million people living with disabilities in Canada.

Who Does the Law Benefit?

Here are a few statistics to help you understand the importance of this law:

 

  • Approximately 13% of Canadians aged 15 to 24 years old have a disability.
  • That number increases 47% for those over 75 years old.
  • Approximately one in four women and one in five men have a disability and would benefit from assistive technology.

Adding web accessibility features to your website makes it easier for those with disabilities to consume your content. As you can see from the statistics above, if you sell products online, you could be missing out on an untapped market.

Web Development Tips for a More Accessible Website

Here are a few tips to make your website accessible for current and future web development projects:

  • Add alt text to images. Images present an accessibility barrier to those with poor or no vision. Include descriptions that screen readers and refreshable Braille readers can pick up.
  • Allow users to enlarge the font and test this feature on new or updated web pages. You can do this by offering alternate style sheets.
  • Some users are highly sensitive to color contrasts. Keep this in mind if you revamp your branding or make changes to your current website.
  • Add keyboard navigation for visually impaired users, who can’t navigate with a mouse. The following features should offer keyboard-friendly use:
    • URLs
    • Calls to Action
    • Forms
    • JavaScript widgets
    • Drop-down menus
    • Anchor text to links
    • Use Accessible Rich Internet Applications which apply more context for screen readers and other assistive technology.

 

If you need web development experts familiar with web accessibility features and laws, contact WSI eStrategies in Ottawa today. We can help you conduct an audit of your website and assess your readiness for the new WCAG 2.0 requirements.

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