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Digital Accessibility Series Part One

Posted by in Accessibility, Content Strategy, Sustainability


In this first post of our series on digital accessibility and inclusive design, we explore the connection between accessibility and sustainability for websites, apps, and other digital products.

According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of the global population lives with some sort of disability. In the U.S., that number rises to 20% according to the U.S. Census Bureau, or about one in every five Americans. As a mission-driven digital agency, we believe that the internet can and should be accessible to everyone. In this blog series, we’ll cover a variety of tactics for providing great experiences to people with disabilities who may want to access your content. As a member of the global B Corp community, we strive for sustainability and inclusivity in all we do. In the case of digital accessibility, more inclusive design choices are also more sustainable choices. Here’s why…

Accessibility and Sustainability

We blog a lot about sustainability and sustainable design. Considering the lifecycle of our digital products gives us context to ensure those solutions get the right content in front of those who need it when they need it, without barriers, and using as few resources as possible. This includes anyone who might use assistive devices such as screen readers, hearing aids, or other enabling technologies.

Universal access is a key part of all sustainable frameworks, whether you’re talking about websites and email campaigns or energy, water, and sanitation. Accessible websites give people with disabilities the ability to experience content in more meaningful ways. According to the French Open Web Group, accessibility is also good for the planet:

When working on Web accessibility, one finds frequently that some practices result in reducing the size of pages, or the amount of data transferred to the user. Furthermore, an accessible Web site is generally simpler and therefore faster to view, not only for users with disabilities. Every small earning…humbly contributes to the global effort. Much rather like those soda cans you throw in the right recycling bin: this is not what will fundamentally change things; but things will not change unless we do at least our share.

In other words, create something that removes barriers to your content and, in many cases, speeds up the process of accessing it, and you use less resources. Oftentimes, you have happier users as well. Win win win.

Mike Gifford from Canadian B Corp Open Concept Consulting agrees:

In a fast-paced world, having well-structured content that is written in plain language helps people get what they need and act on it. Numbers vary, but a sizable portion of the population has a disability that can affect how they use the web. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) push for sites to be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust.

But what, specifically, does that mean?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) released by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative are meant to serve as the standard for creating more accessible websites and digital products. WCAG 2.0 recommends that digital content follow four guidelines:

  • Perceivable: people should be able to clearly perceive web content using multiple senses, such as sight, sound, and touch.
  • Operable: users should be able to interact with web content using a variety of adaptive devices, including keyboard, mouse, screen reader, etc. etc.
  • Understandable: interaction with web content should be easy for as many people as possible to understand.
  • Robust: web content should work well across browsers and platforms, including assistive technologies.

In future posts of this series, we’ll dig deep into each of these categories to help you improve existing websites and digital products for better accessibility. We’ll talk about how to run accessibility audits. We will also explore the differences between accessibility and inclusive design. No single tool will instantaneously make your website or digital product WCAG 2.0-compliant. This requires vigilance and education.

Conclusion: Making the Web Accessible to All

The B Corp endgame is one where all of society enjoys a shared and durable prosperity. This vision is inclusive of all people. We have a responsibility to be sure our content does not exclude people with disabilities. If you have questions about whether or not your website or digital product is accessible or what can be done to improve performance for people with disabilities, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to help you figure that out.

 

Tim Frick is the author of four books including, most recently, Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services, from O'Reilly Media. He is @timfrick on Twitter. Mightybytes is a full-service creative firm for conscious companies and a certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter or fill out our contact form.