By Joe Chidzik, senior accessibility consultant, AbilityNet
Is your website accessible and user-friendly? You probably don't know, as is the case with many, many other website editors or business owners. But, it's likely you're cutting off millions of potential users with the way you've created your site. And, you're quite possibly breaking the law.
Accessible design is the law
The Equality Act (2010) states that organisations must make a reasonable effort to ensure that their application/website is accessible.
The lack of clarity about what constitutes 'reasonable' is deliberate, and provides some flexibility in interpretation. My interpretation is that what's reasonable depends on resources. A large multinational would be expected to have a proportionally larger amount of resource to devote to ensuring accessibility than a sole trader.
How to ensure your website is accessible
1. Do a Global Web Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) check
There are guidelines that can be followed (and in my view, adopting WCAG AA conformance is likely to be sufficient to be seen to be making a reasonable effort). The WCAG web accessibility guidelines provide a definite benefit in the structured way they layout the different areas of concern, and solutions or expected results, regarding many accessibility issues.
2. Carry out diverse user testing
On top of this, testing your website with a diverse group of users, not website consultants, or designers, will get the best results. So get them involved. You can do this yourself or you can look to outsource this – we undertake user testing at our London usability labs.
Does good accessibility mean bad design?
As an accessibility consultant I want sites to be fully accessible but it's counterproductive to issue an edict overruling over any and all design decisions in the interests of accessibility. This serves only to alienate people and further the (albeit mis-held) belief that good accessibility and good design are mutually exclusive.
At AbilityNet we find some middle ground where the accessibility requirements are met, but solutions are arrived at through discussion with the design, and other relevant teams to ensure their needs are balanced as well. This way, it can be demonstrated that accessibility can be inclusive with design and other disciplines.