Saturday 3 December is International Day of People with Disability. auDA invited Gunela Astbrink, Chair of the Internet Society Accessibility Standing Group, to share with readers the importance of accessible online services to persons with disability.
Have you ever considered how a blind person reads a website or a person with hearing loss enjoys a video?
A person with vision impairment uses screen reading software such as Job Access With Speech (JAWS), NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) or VoiceOver, together with high speed speech output for websites and apps on a laptop or phone. How well they are able to use an online service depends on the way it is designed. A person with hearing loss watches a video and turns captions on. Broadcast video often has built-in captioning but some apps and websites forget to do this.
Almost one fifth (18 per cent) of the population has a disability, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Many of those people may not be able to use a website if it is not designed to be accessible. Making a website accessible means adhering to coding standards and leads to more effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It’s a matter of designing your website for everyone!
Apart from the fact that businesses may be missing out on customers who go to more accessible services, it is a serious barrier for persons with disability and may be considered a form of discrimination under The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
Manual testing of accessible websites by trained staff with disability is vital automated software evaluation picks up only around 30-40 per cent of issues. An example is the use of alt text or tags on images. If a file name or image number (e.g. “image 1”) is used in the alt text, it will be accepted by automated evaluation software as text has been inserted. However, it is not accessible because it provides no indication of what the image is. A blind person needs descriptive text to help them access the content, such as ‘auDA logo’.
Not all businesses are taking a back seat to web accessibility. Large corporations such as Google, Apple and Microsoft are innovators in accessible products and services and are members of the Valuable 500. The Valuable 500 are companies working together to use the power of business to drive lasting change for the 1.3 billion people around the world living with a disability.
If you are looking to improve the accessibility of your website or app, here are a few quick tips to start
Use the alt text attribute to meaningfully describe images – not ‘image 1’
- This adds context about what the content is for blind people using screen reading software
Use form labels
- This is essential for a blind user with screen reading software to understand the context of the form. It is also important for people with reading difficulties using assistive technology
Use colours carefully
- Have sufficient colour contrast between text and background
- If colour differences convey information (e.g. stop/go), also include text for the 10 per cent of people who are colour blind
- This is important for people with hearing loss and for people who speak English as a second language
Provide HTML, rtf or Word document versions of PDF documents
- Screen reading software for blind people cannot access the text on some PDF files
Make links descriptive – not ‘read more’
- Makes links meaningful to users of screen reading software especially if tabbing through links.
You can find additional resources to help improve website accessibility at W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative.
The domain name industry is uniquely positioned to encourage accessible web design within the community. For example, registrars can include a statement about web accessibility with helpful links for their customers registering new domain names. If we as an industry can create greater awareness about why website accessibility is important, we can make a real, positive impact.
More information on web accessibility is available in the resources below
- Video on web accessibility
- W3C Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines
- W3C Web Accessibility Initiative - Resources for Developers
- W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Web Access: Disability Discrimination Advisory Notes, version 4.1 (new version due December 2022).
Gunela Astbrink is a .au member, Chair of the Internet Society Accessibility Standing Group, Vice-Chair of the ICANN Asia Pacific Regional At Large Organisation (APRALO) and a Life Member of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
auDA thanks Gunela for sharing this information and notes we are committed to web accessibility and, as we rebuild our website, making our content more accessible and sharing this information with our stakeholders and community.