“What is an accessible website or blog? I want to do the right thing but where do I even start? Is there a framework or something to gain an overall understanding?”
Yes, there is!
The foundation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 lies upon four guiding principles or characteristics of accessible websites and blogs.
Is your content perceivable in multiple ways?
The first characteristic of an accessible site is that all content is perceivable through sight, hearing and touch. Since not everyone has the same abilities or equal use of the same senses – sight, hearing or touch – content needs to be transformable from one format into another. This enables your website visitors and blog readers to perceive your content in multiple ways.
For example, text (perceivable by sight) can be transformed into audio by using a text-to-speech screen reader (perceivable by hearing) and into Braille by using a refreshable Braille display (perceivable by touch).
In determining how perceivable your site is, consider these five key questions:
- Are images accompanied with equivalent or alternative text?
- Are audio clips accompanied with transcripts?
- In addition to captioning videos, are transcripts provided?
- Have you provided sufficient contrast between your text colour and background colour to improve readability for individuals with low vision?
- Do you avoid CAPTCHAs?
Is your blog operable using various input methods?
The second characteristic of an accessible site is that your content must be navigable or operable using various input methods. Not everyone uses a mouse. Individuals may use a keyboard or an onscreen keyboard, voice input – as in voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, switches controlled by the hand, foot or head, or numerous other input methods. Online content needs to be navigable and operable by these various input methods.
How operable is your site? Consider these four questions:
- Can moving, blinking, scrolling, or auto-updating information be paused, stopped or hidden; for example, do Twitter plug-ins allow readers to stop or pause the flow of updates?
- Is there a “skip navigation” feature to bypass repeated blocks of content, such as the navigation bar?
- Can the purpose of each link be determined from the text link alone?
- Are headings used correctly to provide the content with structure?
Is your content understandable by your readers?
The third characteristic is that your content and navigation must be understandable by website visitors. A website may be perceivable and operable, but unless the content and navigation are understandable, the site is far from accessible. Writing the content in plain language (depending upon the nature of the site), explaining jargon, expanding acronyms and using consistent and intuitive navigation are a few ways to make a site more understandable.
Four key questions to consider when determining if your site is understandable:
- Is your site’s language identified in the code, assisting screen readers and other text-to-speech software with correct pronunciation?
- Are unusual words, jargon and acronyms explained?
- Are images and graphics used to assist with comprehension?
- Are summaries provided for lengthy articles and posts?
Is your site robust across operating systems and platforms?
Finally, accessible sites are robust. Robust content works across operating systems, different browsers, and even on mobile devices. Your site visitors and customers should be able to choose their own technologies to access, read and interact on your site.This allows them to customize their technologies to meet their needs, which include accessibility needs. Web content that requires a certain technology, such as Flash, excludes readers whose devices don’t support that technology. As a general rule, the more control your readers have, the more likely they will be able to access the content effectively.
The key question to consider here is:
- How does your site appear and behave in various browsers, across operating systems and platforms (PC and Mac) and on mobile devices?
To summarize, an accessible site is:
Implementing the POUR principles places your customers, your readers, your community, at the center of your site. Web accessibility is more than simply an application of technical requirements; it is very much about the human factor.