Do we need to be accessible?
Accessibility isn't a new concept, the web as it was originally envisaged by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN as a way to give everyone free access to information and research; we've complicated things along the way.
For over 30 years developers have extended the web, constantly pushing its capabilities beyond what could ever been dreamed. As a developer myself I've appreciated the web's freedom and benefitted from trends spinning out of new features that have been created along the way. Unlike trends, such as WAP, Flash and Facebook Apps, Accessibility isn't a feature; it's how the web should always have been.
The reason Accessibility has been trending lately is because on the 23 September 2018 new regulations came into force in the UK and Europe. In a nutshell, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 and Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council state that you must make your website, intranet and mobile app accessible and provide an up-to-date accessibility statement on your website.
These requirements will be met if a website or mobile app:
- Meets the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard
- Contains a bespoke accessible alternative which is outlined in the site or app's accessibility statement.
If you're unsure that this applies to you, I've summarised the UK regulations in this handy flowchart. While the answer is likely "Yes!" there are exceptions and separate deadlines for internet, intranet and mobile apps.
The key thing that is often missed is that these regulations build on existing obligations to people with a disability from the Equality Act (2010) and Disability Discrimination Act (1995) in Northern Ireland, as well as various European and International directives which state that all service providers must consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people.
That means that exempt organisations and private sector companies must to consider the accessibility of their content and services; as you would be required to make reasonable adjustments in a physical shop, you must do the same on the web.
Remember an accessible web is one that can be used by everyone, regardless of ability. Commonly described as a way to make the web work for people who are disabled, accessibility makes the web better for a lot of people who have no registered disability.
Most people feel like they have no difficulty using the web leading to decisions (or non-decisions) that have a negative effect on a site's accessibility. I’ve worn glasses since I was 10 years old, but I can't think of a single time during 20 years of development that I ever considered making the text on a website larger so that I could read it unaided! It's not that I didn't know what could be done, I didn't think about as a problem! Since the majority of websites are built in this way, I think it’s about time we all focus on Inclusive Design!
I'll admit making your website or app accessible might feel like an impossible task, especially if you've never done it before, but thankfully you're not on your own. The vast majority of websites aren't accessible. That doesn't make it ok, but it does mean there's a lot of knowledge out there, teams going through the same thing, that you can learn from and lean on. Consider leaning on us.
Take a look at our accessibility evaluation and testing services to see where we can help.