Accessibility

In March 2022, 3D Issue will release for its Experios Product, its accessibility feature.  This feature will allow users of the Experios platform to  create publications that are fully compliant with the WCAG  standard.  This release will make Experios, one of the few content creation platforms that meets the requirements of the WCAG specification.

But why is accessibility such an important feature for a product like Experios? Or rather why is it so important that organisations embrace it?

Web accessibility allows everyone, including people with disabilities, to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Internet.

Accessibility compliance is important not only for legal requirements but also because data shows that making your website accessible to all, drives innovation ‘integrating accessibility removes architectural, digital and social barriers that can get in the way of innovation” (Source: MIT 2011). For more and more organisations, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a core theme when they present themselves to potential investors and other stakeholders. A clear commitment to accessibility can demonstrate that a business has a genuine sense of CSR and increase their reputation.

Whilst regulation is an important reason for organisations to make a website accessible to all, it should not only be the driving force to ensure that all sites are accessible to all. In reality, in the US, only federal agencies and their contractors are required to meet the WCAG specification. For private companies, although not required directly by law to meet the WCAG specification,  their websites must be accessible to all and in line with ADA (Americans with Disabilities) guidelines. Between regulation on the one hand and increased legal proceedings on the other, the legal landscape is rapidly changing in favour of equal access for all.

There are different forms of disability, it can be a permanent disability, or it can be  temporary such as a broken arm or the disability can be caused by a situational factor such as slow broadband or bright sunlight. Ensuring that your website is accessible to all means covering a multitude of disabilities but its rewards are significant. “When accessibility is part of strategic planning, businesses are better equipped for success in our connected world of commerce, academia and civic engagement “(source W3).

The Internet needs to be for everyone and web accessibility allows everyone, including people with disabilities  to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Internet. At least 1 billion people globally have a disability which equates to 15% of the world’s population ( Source Disability Inclusion Overview – The World Bank 2018).

Whilst CSR and regulation compliance is more than enough reasons to comply with specifications  such as the WCAG. If you add the data to these reasons, for example 71% of disabled customers with access needs will click away from a website that they find difficult to use. And 82% of customers with access needs would spend more if websites were more accessible. (Source : https://www.hurix.com/reasons-enterprises-need-wcag-compliant/

By ensuring that your site is fully compliant, you have access to a considerable market.  Users and hopefully customers will keep coming back to your site if they  know that it is easily accessible and this will help develop brand loyalty. Making your site more accessible,  will improve your SEO ranking as Google looks at the whole site including layout, design and ease of access.  “​​While there is no comprehensive accessibility ranking factor as of early 2021, the increasing overlap over the past decade between SEO ranking factors and accessibility best practices suggests that accessibility metrics could play a bigger role in search engine algorithms in the coming years” (Source: deque.com)    

Understanding more about the WCAG specification will help organisations conform with the specification. So what are the guidelines in the WCAG specification? There are  four main principles that guide the WCAG specification.  The WCAG states that content must be POUR – Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. 

Compliance with specifications such as the WCAG can be challenging for organisations but with a product such as Experios which ensures that its templates are fully accessible, eases the complexity of compliance. Organisations need to check that all their websites are compliant.

The accessibility feature in Experios aims to help the designer meet the WCAG. Why, for example, is Experios better than a PDF for accessibility? An Experios publication is a single design and a single output.  It allows media such as audio to be embedded directly on the page. Experios loads very fast and considerably faster than a pdf. As all the content is responsive, the reader does not need to pan or zoom the page to easily read the contents and these features allow for people with disabilities to easily engage with the content.

The US is not the only country where there are accessibility regulations. In the EU, there has been an accessibility directive since 2016 Directive (EU) 2016/2102 .  “Businesses with accessibility services can reach a large untapped customer base and experience an economic gain from doing so”  https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/web-accessibility. In the EU, there are an estimated 100 million people with some form of disability and so represents an important market. In June 2022, the EU directive will be reviewed to see whether the rules are still relevant, has the directive increased social inclusion, has the directive harmonised the web accessibility market and finally are their further actions required?

Accessibility is now a legal requirement in many countries, whilst regulation should push you to make your  publications accessible to all, CSR and the potential opportunities to market to this large market should drive you to focus on ensuring that your publications and website are accessible to all.  All the directives & specifications, including the WCAG are aimed at ensuring that companies design their websites, keeping in consideration people with disabilities and by adhering to these specifications, they should be able increase organic traffic because their sites are better built. Helping people with disabilities participate more actively in society is reason enough to make your website conform with the various accessibility regulations.  Specifications & directives such as the WCAG and EU 2016/2102 are here to stay and by embracing them, you in turn will make society a better place for all.