15 March 2013

Liberty, equality, accessibility

Tags:Accessibility, Innovation, CMS

We're often told that every person learns in a different way - some of us learn by watching, some by listening, some by doing - that's because our brains all process and absorb information differently. We reckon website accessibility is a similar concept. Some of us love watching videos but others will skip straight to the transcript to get to the point. Some people love listening to podcasts but others would prefer to read an article or watch a tutorial. What this all boils down to is usability. That is, making your website as user-friendly as possible.

So just what is accessibility?

When we think about designing accessible websites, we often think of blind users who need assistive technology such as screen-reading software to easily access the content. However, we also need to consider people with any type of disability including visual, cognitive, motor skills and hearing-related impairments. Of course, the benefit of complying with accessibility standards is that all people who visit your website will enjoy a more user-friendly, and therefore engaging, experience.

Before we dive into making your website accessible, let's take a look at the major types of disability:

  • Vision impairment can range from slight vision problems, including those who wear glasses and are mature-age, to colour blindness and various levels of blindness.
  • Cognitive and motor skill impairment may be experienced by people who have had an injury, a stroke, an illness like Parkinson's or Cerebral Palsy, or are mature-age.
  • Hearing impairment affects people with genetic deafness, environmental deafness and who are mature age.

Improving the user experience for everyone

Web accessibility doesn't only impact impaired users - it has far-reaching effects on your website as a whole. This can be seen in the many synergies between accessibility and usability best practice. Things like structuring content intelligently and using clear labels will not only make your site accessible, but help create a consistent and user-friendly experience for all visitors. In addition to this, well-structured content will make your site more search-engine friendly, optimising your SEO and, in turn, your conversions.

Having text transcripts for audio and captions for video assists users with hearing impairments, but also gives access to users who don't want to listen to audio, such as those working in an open space office. Thinking about accessibility greatly improves the user experience for all visitors, which in turn helps you deliver on your business goals.

Incorporating accessibility into your web project

At Squiz, we're passionate about accessibility – it's in our DNA. Our UX team are trained to ensure our wireframe designs support accessibility best practice, our graphic design team works within an accessible colour palette, and our implementation team codes sites with web standards to the highest levels of required accessibility compliance.

Our end-to-end accessibility expertise and quality assurance processes mean that we routinely deliver sites that adhere to strict web accessibility conformance guidelines like WCAG 2.0. In addition to our standard practices, we can offer services like expert assistance and evaluation, automated reporting, ongoing tracking and usability testing.

"We're really delighted that we've been able to work in partnership with Squiz as they champion accessibility throughout their company and to their customers…What I'm particularly impressed about with Squiz is the fact that they are really working hard to weave accessibility awareness through the DNA of their firm, from design to development and that can only elevate this issue to the place that it deserves."

Robyn Cummins, Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

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