The World Wide Web has dramatically changed how people, as consumers and citizens, interact with the world. The general democratization of information and ideas has brought many people together in ways never before possible.
One major way that it allows social and business participation is that, more or less, anyone can access most sites and services, regardless of physical issues or other concerns.
In fact, many countries around the world have standards that businesses and organizations are expected to follow, not only for their physical public spaces but for their virtual public spaces as well. These are commonly referred to as accessibility standards.
What Exactly Are Accessibility Standards?
Accessibility standards are usually laws, such as the EU’s Web Accessibility Directive or federal code regulations, such as the US’s Section 508, that govern how information should be displayed on a website. These standards are intended to make the web as easy for everyone to access the same information as possible. Many of the standards are made in order to help those with assorted visual and aural impairments.
How Are Accessibility Standards Determined?
Most laws and regulations are based upon agreed-upon standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, a nonprofit multinational organization that sets overall web coding standards for sites across the internet.
These standards influence how web browsers behave in general when fetching website information. The W3C has an entire section of standards devoted solely to accessibility-based coding, referred to by the organization as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG for short.
How do I (or My Team) Go about Learning and Implementing These Accessibility Standards?
There are a number of resources you can use to learn about the standards. The first place to look is the W3C’s site, which lists its accessibility standards in a straightforward fashion. By familiarizing yourself with the basic standards, they become common knowledge in a very short amount of time.
How Do I Test My Site for Accessibility Compliance?
There are plugins and services, such as an ADA checker, designed for various content management systems that are designed to check your new site content before you publish, so that you know that you are in compliance.
Additionally, a number of sites exist that can give you a basic overall check of your existing site for other issues, which, according to AudioEye, can give you “real-time insights into the accessibility errors your users are encountering all while creating inclusive, barrier-free content for all your audiences.”
Depending on where your business or organization is located, accessibility standards are a requirement as opposed to an asset. Accessibility lawsuits and Office of Civil Rights complaints can and have been brought against multiple organizations, from large-scale publications and fast food chains to public school districts.
The important thing to keep in mind is that these tend to be federal regulations, meaning that anyone, regardless of their proximity to you, is a potential viewer; as such, your site should be relatively easy to access by anyone.
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