Use this page to find out if you're doing everything you should be to make sure your websites and digital services are accessible. Learn how to meet accessibility standards and where to find testing tools.
The internet is meant to be usable by everyone. When websites and web tools are properly designed and coded, it makes the user experience better for everyone by ensuring accessibility needs are met. Assistive technology – tools such as screen readers and voice recognition software – are used by many and rely on websites being well designed to work correctly.
The problem is that the people that commission and create new websites and tools don’t always build them well. This creates barriers that didn’t need to be there.
14.1 million people in the UK are disabled (Department for Work and Pensions, 2019). This is a significant proportion of the population. Their experience of your organisation can be changed entirely by how much effort you have put into accessible design. Good accessible design requires conscious thought.
Not enough of us prioritise time, budget and finding the right skills to do this well. It won’t happen by accident.
If you want people to engage with you and benefit from what you do you need to make accessibility a priority.
It isn’t only about disability.
At some point nearly everyone will struggle to use technology if it hasn’t been designed with digital accessibility in mind.
Microsoft use this model to help train people to think about how improving digital accessibility makes a difference. It considers how all of us may experience permanent, temporary or situational effects.
These labels are useful to help us think about the differences we can make for everyone.
There are many different aspects to accessibility. The Web accessibility guidelines exist to help you make sure that you have covered as many different angles as possible. They aim for you to make your website and other digital tools accessible in the following ways.
The formal name for these guidelines is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They exist at three levels: A, AA and AAA.
Everyone should be aiming for at least single A standard.
Most groups or organisations should be aiming for a minimum of AA standard, particularly if you receive any funding from government or public sources such as the national lottery.
It's worth aiming to reach AAA standard when you can. This is particularly important if you know you're supporting people who will benefit from a particular improvement. It's also a worthwhile goal to reach the standard in some areas even if you can’t reach it in others.
Here are some of the simple things that people often forget to do. You should check whether you have any of these problems on your website, or in digital tools you ask people to use.
Some of these are things that you'll easily be able to notice yourselves and can fix every time you create a new image or page. Some of them you'll need help to check and may need help from the person who built the website or tool to fix.
The full list is technical and can look scary at first but you can make it manageable.
If you’re working with an agency or developer make sure they know about it. Ask them to discuss with you which standard or level you should be aiming for. Talk to them about checking that standards are embedded well by doing some usability testing. If you don’t have technical support, skim the list to find points that make sense to you, and work on improving those first. You can tackle others with technical help later.
Use the W2.org guide to WCAG 2.
Use blogs and articles to help you apply the rules. Search WebAIM for the area you are working on.
If your group or organisation gets funding from a government department then you should read the accessibility requirements for public sector bodies guidance. Some local authority contracts or services may also expect organisations they fund to follow everything in here. It may become a legal obligation for all charities soon.
It also includes useful information to help you convince others in your organisation.
You need to use a readability checker for all writing.
A good readability checker will show you how to make your writing clearer as well as telling you what grade level it meets. Blog platforms like WordPress have readability plugins you can use if you are generating new content all the time. If your platform doesn’t have one built in, copy and paste to an online tool.
Try the Hemingway app, a free-to-use online readability checker.
When you build a website or tool, using an accessibility checker will help you work out the first things you can improve. Make sure you or your agency or developers use one as a regular part of building software.
Don’t forget to test with real people as well. The checkers can make your work easier, not point out every possible issue.
One example is the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE).
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The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are just one part of what you can do to make sure you're making your website, tools and software fully accessible. To get it right you need to take a holistic approach and think about accessibility from the beginning to end of every project. You want to join up your digital accessibility with your approach to accessibility right across your group or organisation.
Here are some measures you can take.
NCVO worked with consultant Zara Todd on this guidance.
This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 March 2021
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