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This Global Accessibility Awareness Day, consider whether your website is reaching as many users as it could be.  

 

What difference could it make?

Imagine that a new web browser was launched to great fanfare and 19% of users are now using it. Downloading it, you give it a try and find that your own website is difficult to use in this browser; there are sections that are broken and content that you can't even read.

That's a significant number of users that can't buy your products, use your services or learn more about your company.

CGI UK’s Web & Mobile App team would typically advise that if a browser has more than a 1% share of your audience, it is worth focusing testing efforts on and ensuring that the user experience is as engaging as possible.

A browser with a 19% user share would be a significant focus for testing and development efforts. With this new browser on the scene, we’d work with you to fix up the site as soon as possible. Crisis averted.

Don't worry, there's no new browser that most sites have issues with. The 19% of users I'm referring to are people with disabilities.

The UK Government estimate that 19% of working age adults and 46% of adults over State Pension age have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability.

If you wouldn’t ignore the users of the new, popular web browser but you are not making your services as accessible as possible, consider why not?

 

It goes beyond disabilities

Making a website accessible actually improves the user experience for more than the 19% of adults. Perfectly able-bodied individuals often find themselves with situational disabilities.

A situational disability is a temporary inconvenience that prevents you from interacting with a website as you usually would. One of the most common is not being able to listen to the audio on a video because of your environment.

People tend to scroll through social media on their phones and watch short video clips, and they aren’t always wearing headphones. With their phones on silent, they’ll just skip over any video that hasn’t provided captions. The video creator has neglected to add captions because they believe that a small percentage of people have hearing impairments, but this overlooks those users that can hear perfectly fine, they just can’t listen right now.

Other examples include not being able to read small text with poor contrast, because the sun is shining on your phone. Or even accidentally mis-clicking within a tiny set of buttons because you’re carrying a baby.

Improving a website for the minority improves it for the majority.

 

Some issues are hard to test

Because we don't experience websites in the same way as a blind user navigating with a screen reader, the issues with our websites can be easy to overlook. The same applies to mobile websites and apps - iPhones have a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver that reads content to you and allows you to control the phone using gestures.

One thing that is simple to test – for this Global Accessibility Awareness Day try using your website with only the keyboard. Some users have visual or dexterity issues that mean this is the only way they can get around on the web. Again, some might just prefer to use the keyboard, or they are using the keyboard because they are trying to browse the web while talking on the phone and sipping a coffee.

 

Drawing up a plan

“Making a website accessible” can feel like quite a nebulous task, but at CGI we’d advise following this process to get you there.

Step one: Accessibility audit

To start off, you’ll want to commission an audit of your website as it stands.  There are global accessibility standards that all websites are assessed against, the current version being WCAG 2.1. The audit will give you a list of changes that need to be made to your website and the coStep Two: Prioritise and Initial Fixntent presented on it.

Step two: Prioritise and initial fix

Working closely with your development team, prioritise which issues are showstoppers, and preventing access to significant features. Also identify anything that is quick and simple to fix, and produce a new version of the website that is more accessible based upon this. 

Step three: Accessibility statement

After the significant issues have been addressed, it’s good practice to pop an Accessibility Statement page on your website addressing the approach you’re taking. Be honest and highlight areas that you are still working on, that have not yet been fixed. Also provide a contact mechanism for users to report any issues that they have found.

Step four: Process change

Committing to accessibility typically involves some tweaks to the production of content for the website. Perhaps adding captions to videos. The development process and testing will also have to consider accessibility in their efforts. Work to embed these process changes within the organisation and drive the cultural shift.

Step five: Continued remediation

After the initial remedial release of the significant issues, work to address the other issues raised in the accessibility audit. Try to prioritise these over other issues and projects – the development team will appreciate the focus and you’ll get to accessible much faster.

Step six: Consider another audit

Depending on the number of issues raised initially, and the complexity of the changes that have been made, you may want to commission another audit to confirm that the site is now fully accessible. 

Step seven: maintain

Congratulations, you now have an accessible website. It’s now key to not let this slip and keep the positive changes going. Keep your accessibility statement up to date, and listen to your users.

 

Can we help?

If you’d like any guidance on this process or what might be involved in website accessibility, get in touch and we will be happy to advise.

About this author

Fiona Holder

Fiona Holder

Senior Consultant

As the technical lead within CGI UK’s Web & Mobile Apps Development team, Fiona Holder’s role is to work with clients across all industry sectors, to advise on the best website and/or app solution for them. Fiona drives discovery workshops to really understand the core ...

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