Importance of Web Accessibility and Its Legal Implications

Web accessibility isn't just about social responsibility, it's also becoming a legal requirement in many countries. Making your content accessible will deliver business growth, enhance your reputation, and keep you safe from penalties.

Importance of Web Accessibility and Its Legal Implications
A desk setup emphasizing the importance of web accessibility

Visibility and Accessibility underpin user interactivity online.

Visibility provides "user perception", while Accessibility is about ensuring meaningful engagement and purpose fufillment.

Those elements are intertwined when it comes to posting information on the Internet.

Consider this example: You want to post an image on your website.

It needs to be visible to search engines. Just as importantly, it needs to have alt-text for for enhancing its accessibility, which has the side effect of further increasing visibility in search engine results.

By adhering to accessibility guidelines, you not only benefit from user growth and engagement; you also mitigate legal risks associated with non-compliance.

Complying Globally: A Guide to International Web Accessibility

Accessibility regulations are in place to ensure that differently-abled people can access products, services, or facilities easily and comfortably.

Accessibility guidelines are not just limited to physical structures. They also encompass publicly available websites.

Failing to adhere to accessibility guidelines may result in lawsuits and penalties.

Here's an overview of key accessibility regulations across different regions, highlighting their importance in fostering digital inclusivity.

Accessibility guidelines in the USA

In the United States, the Americans with Disability Act and the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandate accessible design for Americans with disabilities.

Additionally, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are broadly adopted in the United States as the benchmark for web accessibility standards, guiding the creation of more inclusive digital content.

Accessibility regulations in Europe

The Directive (EU) 2015/2102 requires EU member states to ensure that websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies are accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessibility guidelines in Canada

There are two widely accepted regulations in In Canada: The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) and the Canadian Human Rights Acts for Accessible Canada.

These regulations set forth accessibility standards, with the federal government's websites adhering to WCAG 2.0 guidelines to ensure comprehensive access.

Accessibility guidelines in Australia

In Australia, government-regulated websites and mobile apps must comply with accessibility standards set out by the World Wide Web Consortium (WCAG) to ensure everyone can access information and services online.

This aligns with the core principle of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which is enforced by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Web Compliance Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Principles

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was published by the World Wide Web Consortium under the Web Accessibility Initiative.

It is the recommended standard for online content publication.

The current version of WCAG is 2.2, which was released on 5th October 2023.

How strictly the WCAG principles and guidelines are followed can be measured by the levels of WCAG – A, AA and AAA, with AA being the widely adopted standard across various industries for its balanced approach.

WCAG is built on four core principles:

  • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presented in ways users can perceive, including providing alternatives for non-text content.
  • Operable: Users should be able to operate the interface using a keyboard, enough time should be allowed for users to read and interact with content, the site should not trigger seizures or physical reactions, and users should be provided with ways to navigate and find content.
  • Understandable: Content should be readable and understandable, the site should work in predictable ways, and users are provided input assistance to avoid/correct mistakes.
  • Robust: Content must be robust enough for reliable interpretation by various users and their chosen technologies.

Maintaining Compliance with WCAG

Websites that are not WCAG compliant running the risk of facing lawsuits.

Compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is crucial not only to avoid legal challenges but also to enhance your online reputation.

Here are some straightforward strategies to improve web accessibility:

  1. Run your website through the Safari browser’s reader mode. This simulates the experience for visually impaired users. Ensure information is presented clearly and correctly.
  2. Adjust contrast and brightness. Experiment with changing the contrast and brightness settings on your monitor and navigate your website. If you struggle to read, it is likely that visually impaired users will encounter similar challenges.
  3. Pay attention to responsiveness. Test your website across different devices (desktops, tablets, mobiles). Ensure text doesn't overlap and images display correctly. Responsive design not only benefits accessibility but also improves SEO.
  4. Test forms with non-tech-savvy users. This way you will discover issues with unclear instructions and insufficient time limits. Session recording tools such as Hotjar can help you better understand user struggles.
  5. Describe images. For normal users, images are important for engagement and conversion. However, the same images may create confusion for vision impaired users. Ensure that all images on your website are equipped with alt-text. Consider connecting your website to a CaptionAI, which helps you generate high quality alt-texts.