The Way to Digital Accessibility

As you’ve read about here quite a few times, we are seeing that consumer-focused organizations in both the public- and private sectors remain at the highest risk of being named in a digital accessibility lawsuit. Institutions such as those in higher education that were once seen as relatively safe from web accessibility lawsuits are now being named in increasing numbers of complaints. The vast majority of lawsuits filed concern inaccessible or incompletely accessible websites. This should no longer be happening.

Failing to make your digital product accessible to people with disabilities instantly alienates approximately 15% of the population. It is estimated that one in five people in the United States has a disability physical or otherwise, that makes the way they interact with technology different from their peers.

If you estimate that this population comprises about 54 million individuals, it is no surprise that they also account for a lot of discretionary spending, making it a huge market that often gets overlooked when businesses create or update their products. If individuals with disabilities find that a business does not focus on providing features tailored to their specific needs, they will go elsewhere. There is a lot to choose from.

Accessibility guidelines and compliance can be complicated, but if the primary premise is to always be empathetic to the needs of the client, there is a straight way forward.

At this time, all apps and websites should strive to adhere to the WCAG guidelines, which include the POUR principles of accessibility. Version 1.0 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines focused heavily on the techniques for accomplishing accessibility, especially as related to HTML. WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 take a different approach by focusing more heavily on the principles of accessibility rather than techniques. This makes the guidelines more flexible and encourages developers to think through the process conceptually.

The four main guiding principles of accessibility in WCAG are explained by the acronym POUR:
Perceivable: Users must be able to see it, hear it and feel it
Operable: Individuals must be able to use it
Understandable: Users must be able to get it
Robust: Customers must be able to access it as technology advances

Not everyone has the same abilities or equal use of the same senses, and one of the main keys to accessibility is ensuring that information is transformable from one form into another, so that it can be perceived in multiple ways. For example, text can be transformed into audio and/or Braille and audio can be transformed into text.

Creating products that are accessible to everyone by default creates opportunities to build products that everyone can use and enjoy.