Access to online content and applications is an important part of day-to-day life for members of the community, regardless of ability. However, many websites are not designed with accessibility in mind, excluding those with a disability from full participation in our digital society and robbing websites of potential customers or users.
Improving the accessibility of your website or online application starts with a few simple actions and benefits all users.
What does web accessibility mean?
Web accessibility makes web content accessible for people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual disabilities by designing and developing websites, tools and technologies so that people with disabilities can easily perceive, understand, navigate and interact with online services and content.
How does web accessibility help?
People with a disability navigate the web in different ways depending on their individual needs. Different tools and techniques can assist them to access and interact with online content. For example, a person with a vision impairment may rely on screen reading software with a speech or Braille output. Someone with a hearing impairment may require closed captions in order to consume video content. Creating accessible content enables these tools and techniques to be used effectively.
Web accessibility also helps people without disabilities to access online content. This includes older people, people with limited digital skills, people with injuries, e.g. a broken arm, or people unable to listen to audio in certain situations.
Why is web accessibility important?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost one fifth of the Australian population (18 per cent) has a disability and may find accessing certain web content challenging.
Web accessibility is important because it:
- Supports inclusion of people of all abilities to benefit from and contribute to the web
- Ensures your organisation or business does not miss out on reaching almost one fifth of Australians as a potential audience
- Helps you meet requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
I want to improve the accessibility of my website/app. Where do I start?
To improve the accessibility of your website or app, you can begin by making simple changes that will have a big impact. Suggestions include:
1. Use colours with care
People with impaired vision may have difficulty distinguishing colours. Use high contrast colours on the foreground and background of your webpages. Black text against a white background is high contrast but grey text against a white background is low contrast. When using colour to indicate a status (e.g. red, amber, green), include text in addition to the colour.
2. Include Alternative (Alt) Text for images to convey meaning
Screen reading software cannot read images or text contained in images. Include Alt Text for images on your webpage, Word or PDF documents to allow screen reading software to describe the image.
3. Use descriptive hyperlinks
When adding URLs or links ensure you label them descriptively i.e. they should tell the user where they’ll go if they click on it. Screen reader users often use shortcuts to display a list of links on a webpage which removes the context. This means avoiding ‘click here’ or ‘read more’ hyperlinks which are uninformative. Instead, write click here to read our accessibility fact sheet, or, check out our accessibility fact sheet, etc.
4. Use appropriate heading tags
Screen reading software identifies section headings by their section tags, i.e. <H1> (Heading 1), which allows the software to correctly navigate a website. Use consistent section headings throughout your copy to aid navigation and avoid creating headings using <p> (paragraph) text which may create confusion for the person receiving the information.
5. Add form labels
Form labels provide context about the information required in webforms. They assist those using screen reading software and people with learning difficulties who rely on assistive technology. When updating forms, consider removing placeholder text as it is not accessible by screen reading software and is typically displayed with low colour contrast.
6. Caption videos
People who are hard of hearing rely on closed captions in videos. Where possible, use human generated captions as these are the most accurate for people with hearing loss. Many video hosting platforms also support the transcription and automated captioning of videos.
7. Provide Word or HTML versions of PDF documents
Screen reading software programs cannot access the text on some PDF files. Consider uploading a Word document or HTML version in addition to your PDF to improve accessibility. If you need to use a PDF, you can add heading tags and alt text to graphics to make it more accessible.
8. Have a clear, consistent user interface
People with cognitive disabilities benefit from consistent and intuitive interface design, as it makes navigating through a website or app easier. Examples include clear language and an uncluttered layout, which is helpful to everyone.
Where can I find more resources?
To learn about the fundamentals of website accessibility, see:
- WAI Introduction to Web Accessibility
- Video Introduction to Web Accessibility and W3C Standards
- W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes.
auDA is committed to web accessibility. As we rebuild our website in 2023-24, we are focused on making our content more accessible and sharing information on accessibility with our stakeholders and community.
auDA thanks Gunela Astbrink, Chair of the Internet Society Accessibility Standing Group and Vice-Chair of ICANN's Asian, Australasian and Pacific Islands Regional At-Large Organization (APRALO) and Wayne Hawkins, Director of Inclusion at the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) for their assistance in developing this fact sheet.
Category: Fact sheets