What is accessibility?
Making a website accessible means adding metadata to content, such as text descriptions of images, to make the content meaningful to people with visual disabilities.
Text, images, audio and video content all need attention. All non-text content needs a text description, such as a transcript of an audio file, like a podcast.
A video may need a transcript as well as an additional description if it communicates information non-verbally, such as through gesture and body language.
The colours chosen for text, buttons, icons and backgrounds need to be carefully chosen so that they display with sufficient contrast to be visible to people with limited vision or colour blindness.
It also means adding code that guides screen readers and other tools used by some users to navigate websites.
For users with physical disabilities, it means being able to skip through a page by tabbing through a logical sequence of active elements, from menu items to subheadings.
Accessibility is important. In websites, the platform and content work together to make a site accessible.
Why is accessibility necessary?
Making content accessible for people with visual and mobility disabilities is a professional requirement for government and not-for-profit organisations funded by government in Australia. It is also a legal requirement to do so.
Widespread ignorance of or indifference to the requirements represents a significant risk. It exposes an organisation to reputational damage and the possibility of legal action.
WCAG 2.0 Level AA standard
Publishing an accessible website requires building it to meet specific standards, then writing the content to meet those standards.
The standards are defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and the specific standard required is WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
Most organisations, even government agencies, fail to meet the required standards. Accessibility is often not seen as a priority for, or taken seriously by, management.
How to implement the accessibility standards
I have broad knowledge of the web development requirements for accessibility, such as ensuring that a site outputs image alt tags that describe the information contained in an image, photo or diagram.
Translating the standards into simple publishing processes makes it easier to create accessible content. I can define easy to follow processes so that your content meets the needs of every audience.
These are the structural foundations that enable accessibility information or metadata to be added to and published in a site.
Accessibility has also become an important search engine optimisation (SEO) factor. The alt tag content that describes images is an opportunity to add relevant keywords to your content to help search engines better index it.
Improving the accessibility of your content can therefore make your website better for all users, not just for those who really need it.