The Web is a vitally important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more.
It's essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. Accessible sites can also enable more active participation in society for disabled people.
For many people with disabilities, the Web offers unprecedented access to information and interaction, and barriers to print, audio, and visual media can be much more easily overcome through Web technologies.
Accessibility is an important part of web governance but also one of corporate social responsibility for any organisation now.
And in some countries such as the UK it is backed up by law - non-accessible sites have been in breach of the law for a decade. The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales.The legal requirement for accessible websites has been with us since the 1990s.
Like the DDA, the Equality Act was introduced with the intention of comprehensively tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face. For instance, it may be unlawful for a website to:
- have links on that are not accessible to a screen reader
- have application forms (for instance, for bank accounts or job application forms) in a PDF format that cannot be read by a screen reader
- have core service information (for instance, timetables on a public transport website) that is not in a format accessible to screen readers.
Although prosecutions under the new law have been rare, there are other advantages to being accessible - partially disabled people spend a good deal online, so it's important to allow them to access your site. Also a site geared to accessibility is easier to navigate for everyone, not just the partially-disabled. Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits.
Making a website accessible is a tough job, especially when you consider the complexities involved - An average site [300 pages with 125,000 combinations] requires over 1,000,000 tests to make sure it's going to operate correctly across many browsers, user hardware types, corporate access [firewalls/proxy servers/networks] as well as with many internet service provider and hosting possibilities - both hardware and software [including operating systems/database servers].
How Sitemorse measures your site's accessibility
Sitemorse's powerful engine can scan every line of code on your web page, a task that would be time-consuming and difficult for manual testers. Our software checks to ensure pages meet accessibility guidelines laid down by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community led by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards.
Some time ago we put together a downloadable guide to web accessibility testing for those who have the responsibility for website content and who might want to check that work done by design agencies, internal and external contractors is meeting their organisation's standards in this area.
Those interested in the subject might also want to check out our Index web benchmarks, which rate the websites of many organisations across a variety of sectors on, among other things, accessibility.