What is digital accessibility? And how it can benefit your business
What is digital accessibility?
Broadly speaking, accessibility refers to designing products and environments so that individuals with disabilities or sensory impairments can use them equally.
As defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can:
- perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web
- contribute to the Web.
'Web accessibility' can also be referred to as 'digital accessibility' and it benefits people without disabilities, too. So, if you do business online, understanding web content accessibility guidelines and principles can help improve the experiences you deliver to customers and clients online.
Why is digital accessibility important for businesses?
The Centre for Accessibility Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that works to promote digital access for all. According to the organisation, approximately 4.3 million people in Australia, or 18.3% of the population, live with some form of permanent disability.
Today, digital accessibility in Australia is a focus for businesses who want to ensure that all customers can engage with them online. By prioritising digital accessibility, businesses empower individuals to experience content as it was intended.
Digital accessibility standards you need to know about
Whether you run an eCommerce store or simply promote your business on social media platforms, your content should be meeting certain accessibility standards. As the Centre for Accessibility Australia reminds us, making your digital content accessible is not only a good thing to do, but may also be required for regulatory compliance. So, it’s important to seek appropriate legal advice to understand any obligations your business may be under to ensure you offer inclusive experiences for your customers.
Why follow web content accessibility guidelines as a business?
Making your online content more accessible offers a range of advantages that can support your business goals and improve your customers’ experience.
Here’s a breakdown of the benefits you may enjoy if you include accessibility as a part of your business strategy.
You can help broaden your business reach with digital accessibility
The more accessible your website, the easier it is for all individuals to connect with you online. This, in turn, helps fuel customer engagement and build brand satisfaction that can also lead to advocacy.
The web content accessibility guidelines followed by Amazon.com, for example, help the eCommerce platform to serve a wider audience online. Indeed, by providing accessible purchasing options, it's reported that Amazon has tapped into a market that is worth more than $6.5 billion annually.
You don’t have to be an eCommerce store to explore how to benefit. Strong digital accessibility examples can be found in all sectors, delivered by Australian and international brands both large and small.
You can help improve your search engine ranking
Search engine optimisation (SEO) describes methods used to increase traffic to your website from platforms like Google. When you follow SEO best practices such as web accessibility, it helps increase the organic traffic flowing towards your business online. So, to help your website rank higher in search engines, it pays to make sure it adheres to web content accessibility guidelines and principles.
You can improve the usability of your website
Web content accessibility guidelines in Australia include recommendations on things like web page layout and the hierarchy of headings. Including website design elements such as these, in addition to common sense website navigation, helps your customers to engage and shop with your brand more easily online.
What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?
The global Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a set of standards offering all businesses advice they can consider for their website.
These guidelines outline the following 4 principles of accessibility:
- Perceivable. For your business website to be perceivable, all information and user interface components must be presentable to individuals in ways they can perceive.
- Operable. For your business website to tick this box, all user interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable. For your business website to be properly understood by all individuals, all information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.
- Robust. For your business website to comply with this principle, content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies like screen readers.
Why follow the web content accessibility guidelines?
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the four principles of accessibility as outlined by WCAG, your business will be well positioned to start exploring how you can best comply with digital accessibility guidelines.
How to help make your website more accessible and user friendly
Your digital accessibility journey doesn’t have to be daunting. A growing number of businesses are now learning about digital accessibility in Australia, so it’s a great time to be applying web content accessibility guidelines to your own website.
Here’s a few accessibility tips to help get you started.
Write in plain language
One of the four principles of accessibility is readability. So, your business should create text content that is readable and understandable. Writing in plain language means using familiar words and keeping sentences short. WCAG also recommends using active instead of passive voice and using fewer complex words and phrases.
Use alternative text (alt text)
As defined by WCAG, alt text is language added to images, and other non-text web content, so that they can be perceived by people who may not be able to see or otherwise grasp their meaning.
Alt text helps your site visitors understand what’s happening on a page and is particularly important when images are essential to using a website or mobile application. Think of the ‘alt text’ as an alternative way for someone to understand the meaning of the content without having to see the image itself.
Create clear page titles
Every page of your website should be titled in a way that describes the topic or purpose of the page. Page titles are the first things announced by a screen reader. So, just like labels in any filing system, titles should be written in clear, plain language to make it immediately obvious to site visitors what page they're on.
To learn more about writing to improve your website's digital accessibility, visit WCAG Quick Tips for Content Writers.
Making digital accessibility a priority for your business
If you trade in the digital age, following web content accessibility guidelines benefits your business by helping your website become accessible to more people.
In the words of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World Wide Web in 1989: “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
When you create content for your website and social media platforms with digital accessibility in mind, you can help your business reach more customers online. You may also improve the quality of customer experience you deliver, in turn helping to build a great brand reputation in the Australian marketplace.