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  • Writer's pictureAyesha Saeed

Unlocking the web: start your journey into digital accessibility


A look at how we can follow inclusive practices to ensure equal access to digital services for everyone. Guided by standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and legislation, organisations should prioritise accessibility from the outset. Through rigorous testing, user feedback loops, and continuous improvement we can drive progress in accessibility.


Overview

  • What is digital accessibility 

  • Who benefits from digital accessibility? 

  • Legal standards and guidelines

  • Shift Left accessibility

  • Testing, auditing and user feedback

  • Progress over perfection

  • Contact information


What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility ensures there are no barriers for individuals when using digital services. This makes accessibility a functionality issue. Simply put, if the service is not accessible it is not functional. Although there are legal requirements to highlight the importance of accessibility, it goes beyond legal compliance checklists and is centred on creating inclusive digital spaces that everyone can use.


Who benefits from digital accessibility? 

Web accessibility benefits everyone. When digital spaces are built with accessibility in mind the result is faster, easier and more usable services. Importantly, this makes the service accessible for people with permanent, temporary and situational disabilities. 


People may have accessibility needs across the following areas: 

  • Cognitive

  • Visual

  • Auditory 

  • Motor

  • Speech

Visual representation of disability types such as cognitive, visual, auditory, motor, and speech.
Visual representation of disability types such as cognitive, visual, auditory, motor, and speech.

Take time to understand your users and understand their experiences on your services. Not every user will have the same needs, and some users' requirements may conflict with others. Providing options and alternatives will allow you to create more inclusive digital spaces with reduced barriers for your users.


Legal standards and guidelines


Equality Act 2010

As far as legal requirements go, the Equality Act 2010 states that there is a ‘a duty to make reasonable adjustments’ for those who classify as ‘disabled persons’. 


Government requirements 


As a minimum, it is required that public services meet basic requirements, but even for non-public services it is good practice to follow these guidelines. In doing so, you begin to make your digital service an accessible space for all.


WCAG

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) serve as the internationally recognised standards for web accessibility. WCAG provides guidelines organised into four principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR). Following these guidelines enhances the overall accessibility of your web content.


  • Perceivable: Provide alternatives for non-text content, captions, and sufficient colour contrast for text.

  • Operable: Ensure keyboard accessibility, sufficient reading time, and avoid content causing discomfort.

  • Understandable: Use clear language, consistent navigation, and offer input assistance.

  • Robust: Employ valid code, adhere to web standards, and avoid browser-specific features.


Currently, web content should adhere to the WCAG 2.2 (2023) standards. The recent version introduces 9 new guidelines (6 A & AA) and removes one (4.1.1 Parsing). Meeting the WCAG 2.2 guidelines will mean you will also meet the previous versions of the guidelines. 


Shift Left accessibility



Visual representation of shift left activities that involve security, testing and operations processes earlier on in the dev cycle including throughout plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate and monitor phases.
Visual representation of shift left activities that involve security, testing and operations processes earlier on in the dev cycle including throughout plan, code, build, test, release, deploy, operate and monitor phases.

Accessibility should not be the responsibility of a single person/role but of the whole team. This involves baking accessibility in from the start, from the initial idea through to sign off. This implements a ‘Shift Left’ approach which encourages earlier accessibility reviews, involving all on the team from product owners through to release. 


A shift left approach embeds accessibility into the process so that it is not just an afterthought or a bottleneck to releases. It also prevents an excess of accessibility tech debt items that tend to remain at the bottom of the backlog.


Testing, auditing and user feedback

A large part of creating accessible services is to regularly test the service using automated testing tools and manual assessments (including testing with assistive technology). At Solirius we have several Accessibility specialists who are continuously working to implement, build and maintain accessible and inclusive services. 


Testing needs to be carried out in parallel to regular user testing to ensure you better understand real experiences for users and are not just building services to meet compliance.


Progress over perfection

Accessibility is a vast area with many specialisms, and can initially feel overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that even small accessibility considerations are a start and can go a long way for users. Don’t let the pressure of perfection stop you from getting involved and learning about accessibility. Lean on your peers and figure out how you can tackle challenges together, it is a learning curve for many but we all start somewhere.


Summary

  • Prioritising web accessibility ensures that your services are inclusive and usable for all users.

  • By implementing a shift left approach, utilising the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and involving users with a variety of needs, you can create a more inclusive digital landscape.

  • Remember, accessibility is an ongoing journey involving everyone, and continual efforts to improve will help create digital services that benefit all.


Contact information

If you have any questions about accessibility or you want to find out more about what services we provide at Solirius please get in touch.


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