Content for Accessible Websites | WCAG | ADA | 508
With half of the entire world’s population using the internet and an estimated one billion living with some disability, website accessibility has never been more important. Officials added websites to the ADA’s accessibility requirements in 1996 and started an internationally recognized set of guidelines in 1999. These guidelines for accessible content have been updated over the years as internet technology evolves.
What is Accessible Content?
Not every website is required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, although it certainly makes for a better experience for all users. The ADA requirements only legally apply to Title II and Title III entities. Title II covers local and state government, schools, and universities, while Title III covers any business open to the public, such as retail stores, banks, hotels, restaurants, and healthcare facilities. To ensure equal access to information for all, these organizations need accessible content for their websites.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing may need captions or transcripts on videos. Those who are blind or have low vision may need screen readers, while people with mobility impairments may need the option for keyboard navigation on a website. A website is designed with accessible content when it works with accessibility devices like screen readers or provides captions or transcripts on videos.
Other examples of accessible content:
- Easy-to-follow structure with accurate page titles, descriptive headings, and defined sections.
- Clear and concise language written for the average reader that uses active voice and omits excess words. This is sometimes called “Plain Language.”
- Meaningful headings and links allow people who use screen readers to find relevant content quickly. Meaning that headings and links should accurately and concisely describe the content they are associated with.
- Image alternatives like ALT text with brief descriptions of meaningful images allow people using screen readers to get the full experience of the content.
- Media alternatives such as transcripts for audio and video and captions for video are extremely useful for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
What are the 4 Principles of Accessibility?
With the internet being a global utility, regulating all websites is virtually impossible. However, a group of individuals and organizations established an internationally recognized set of standards for accessible websites in 1999, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They are regularly updated as the internet and technology evolve to ensure full access and equal opportunities for users with disabilities.
Designed around four principles of accessibility, the WCAG covers how people access and use internet content. These four principles are known as POUR:
Perceivable - Presented to users in ways they can perceive it; content can’t be invisible to any of their senses.
- Perceivable Accessible Content
- Text Alternatives
- Time-Based Media Alternatives
- Adaptable Format
- Distinguishable Design
Operable - The user must be able to operate and navigate all areas of the website.
- Operable Accessible Content
- Keyboard Functionality
- Adjustable Timing for Viewing Content
- Formatting to Prevent Seizures and Physical Reactions
- Navigation Assistance
Understandable - The content and mode of operation must be within understanding.
- Understandable Accessible Content
- Readable Content
- Predictable Design
- Input Assistance
Robust - The content should be robust enough to be reliably interpreted by various users and assistive technologies, even as those technologies change and evolve.
- Robust Accessible Content
What are the 3 Levels of Accessibility?
Within the WCAG, there are three levels of conformance:
- Level A: The lowest level of conformity. Most legislation requires Level A compliance for all Title II and Title III websites but doesn’t cover the most common challenges for people with disabilities.
- Level AA: Covers the most common content accessibility issues. Most organizations and government entities should meet Level AA accessibility requirements for their website content.
- Level AAA: The highest level of conformity. Level AAA covers virtually all accessibility issues faced by people with disabilities.
How Do I Make My Website Accessible?
Creating or modifying existing content to make a website accessible will not only keep you in compliance with the ADA but also improve user experience and satisfaction and boost SEO. Use straightforward language as some users may have cognitive impairments, and others rely on screen readers that need it to be clearer. Provide transcripts with audio and video content for users that are deaf or use English as a second language. Add alternative text with brief descriptions to images that can be read aloud with screen readers for users with vision disabilities. Remove flashing animations and videos to reduce the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy. Designing accessibility for websites is possible with a little extra effort.
If you’re unsure about the status of ADA compliance for your website, use our website accessibility checker and reach out for a consultation today. Our ADA Compliance Toolkit has the information about content modification you need to create a fully accessible website.