15 Aug 22
Addressing Accessibility in websites
'Roundup' is the collection of key stuff we've either been reading, discussing or working on during the month at Avenue.
Here’s an explanation of the different versions, levels and approaches one can take with addressing Accessibility in websites.
Please note: We’ve purposely tried to keep complexity out of this article, and hope that it succinctly explains the options and considerations.
Why is accessibility important?
The best way to explain the importance of accessible websites, is to relate it to an everyday task. So, picture ordering a pizza online; this is something the large majority of us take for granted.
But imagine suffering from a disability, and due to the pizza firm’s website, not being able to do this simple, everyday task?
Imagine being one of the close to 10% of Australians that suffer colour blindness, and not being able to effectively read or understand information on a web page due to the colours used?
Websites, whether for need, or joy, should be created with the aim of reducing accessibility barriers, wherever possible.
What are the benefits of developing accessible websites?
Creating more accessible websites does cost more, but it’s important, and the benefits are compelling. Our Digital Business Director, Brenton Cannizzaro, spoke of these benefits to Lisa Teh on the CODI CAST podcast.
Web Accessibility versions and levels
The international standard for website accessibility is ‘WCAG’ (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and the chart below outlines the different guideline versions, and conformity levels within each version.
A quick reference of all the current guideline criteria can be found at W3C (the Web Accessibility Initiative).
An unofficial look at different web accessibility conformance options
First things first.
Of the approaches outlined below, only one can be considered to be meeting accessibility compliance, and that is the “audited”, or fully compliant option.
Of course full compliance should always be the aim, but a variety of factors may impact the ability to achieve this goal.
Website accessibility conformance approaches
When considering web accessibility, you not only need to define what WCAG Version you are aiming for, you also need to define what Level you are targeting, and also how close you want your website to try and achieve compliance.
The easiest way to describe it is to break it down into 4 different levels.
This means you aim to achieve as much as you can, but this is completely dictated by your visual design goals, and not wanting to increase delivery time or costs.
- Accordingly it means taking the approach of creating the site being mindful of accessibility where possible (which is designing and building the site to meet good web standards).
- So it means you will meet some criteria due to following good web standards, but it definitely does not mean meeting compliance of any of the 3 levels.
- This approach only relates to Level A and AA.
“As Close as Possible” approach
This means selecting a WCAG version, and then one of the 3 Levels, and aiming to achieve as many of the guideline criteria as possible.
- Not all of the criteria will be met, and the reasons behind this is that the visual design vision, as well as the need or want to use certain technologies, as well as user experience aspects take precedence over meeting exact accessibility guidelines.
- Accordingly, this approach means visual design and functionality decisions are not heavily impacted, although considerations may be made to slightly adjust approaches to get closer to meet an accessibility guideline in some instances.
- A good web studio will be able to outline for you the reasons why certain approaches were taken and how this means accessibility isn’t being met in favour of brand or user experience.
- So it means you will meet a number of criteria, but it does not mean meeting compliance of any of the accessibility levels.
- It is often referred to as “Getting as close as reasonably possible”.
- This approach realistically only relates to Level A and AA.
- As an estimate guide, if you were targeting Level AA, you could expect to add ~15% to 20% additional time and cost for this option (this is dependant on the project’s brand and design objectives).
This means selecting a WCAG version, and then one of the 3 Levels, and is focused on achieving as many of the guideline criteria as possible, with accessibility heavily influencing design and development decisions.
- Branding, user experience, technology, or budget aspects may still have some influence, however very sound reasons are needed for any criteria not met.
- This approach takes a strict methodology to meeting as many accessibility guidelines as possible, and thus it may mean some visual design and functionality decisions are impacted.
- This approach does not meet full accessibility compliance, but gets close. So it means you will meet a large number of WCAG 2.0 AA criteria, but it does not mean meeting full compliance.
- As an estimate guide, if you were targeting Level AA, you could expect to add ~25% to 30% additional time and cost for this option (this is dependant on the project’s brand and design objectives).
- Strict websites aim for a maximum score on leading online accessibility tools, such as Google Lighthouse or axe devTools.
This means being focused on achieving full compliance, and having this audited by an accredited accessibility tester to confirm the compliance.
- With this approach, accessibility is always the first and deciding consideration in relation to UX and UI design and functionality.
- AA should be the minimum conformity level.
- Higher budgets are required, however this is the gold standard.
- Achieving this level of accessibility can be very complex and have an impact on time and cost. Depending on the circumstances and level of accessibility you are aiming for, it could easily add 50% or more additional time and cost.