Ensuring that your online content is accessible isn’t merely a legal obligation—it’s a reflection of your dedication to inclusivity and your forward thinking. As an experienced accessibility consultant, I provide custom solutions to guide you through the intricacies of digital accessibility, offering everything from comprehensive audits to straightforward practical advice. In this short article, I explain what digital accessibility is, why you need it, and how to get started.
Digital accessibility is about crafting online spaces – and content delivered via computer interfaces – where everyone, regardless of their abilities can engage with the content. For example, for your website, it means ensuring every aspect is welcoming and accessible to visitors, whether they are using a screen reader, navigating with a keyboard, or facing other challenges.
The essence of digital accessibility—in the wider sense—means designing and developing digital content in a way that breaks down barriers and opens up avenues of access for everyone. This is done by ensuring the format of content is designed to be flexible, i.e., it can change to fit the needs of the individual, not the other way around. We don’t force the individual to change to fit with the way we present our content.
For example, when digital content is accessible, it will be possible for a blind person, using a screen reader, to have your content read out to them, including descriptions of any image or photographs on the page. And those descriptions will be equivalent to the function the image or photograph plays for sighted visitors.
When we talk about digital accessibility, we’re not just talking about ticking boxes or meeting legal requirements (although that’s important too!). We’re talking about fostering a digital world where everyone feels included, empowered, and able to fully participate in the online experience.
First and foremost, there’s the matter of reputation. By prioritising digital accessibility, you’re not just showing the world that you care about inclusivity—you’re also demonstrating your commitment to excellence. You are telling your audience, your customers, your partners, and your competitors that you mean business when it comes to inclusion and equality.
Then, there’s the matter of legal compliance. In many jurisdictions, digital accessibility isn’t just a suggestion—it’s the law. By ensuring your content meets accessibility standards, you’re not just avoiding potential legal headaches down the road—you’re also safeguarding your brand’s reputation and integrity. In the UK that means complying with The Equality Act 2010.
By reaching a wider audience, you’re opening up new revenue streams, tapping into markets you might have overlooked, and ultimately, boosting your bottom line. If you are a charity, a non-profit, or a public sector organisation you are getting your message out to more of your potential audience.
When you prioritise accessibility, you’re also opening the door to new ideas and possibilities. You are flexing your creative muscles, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and ultimately, setting yourself apart from your competition.
So, in a nutshell, the advantages of digital accessibility for content producers are clear: enhanced reputation, legal compliance, increased audience and/or revenue opportunities, and a boost to innovation. It’s a win for you and for those who consume your content and services.
One of the first things you can do is to assess where you are right now, i.e., find out how accessible your current digital content is. A good way to do that is to commission an accessibility audit. For example, if you have a website and you want to know if it is accessible, an accessibility auditor can check it against the de facto standards that are used by governments across the world, i.e., the WCAG 2.1. (and WCAG 2.2 when it is adopted by governments).
WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These are the guidelines published by the W3C. You will be reassured to know, that I provided feedback on version two of the guidelines, in my previous role as Director of the Guide of Accessible Website Designers. I have detailed knowledge that I can put to good use when assessing the accessibility of websites and other digital content, including PDFs and MS Word documents, videos, and dynamic content. I have been working in the area of accessible website design since 1996, written multiple books on the subject, creating training courses (check out my bestselling WCAG 2 Accessibility online course) and given advice to 100s of organisations. I’ve also got over 20 years experience of building websites – so I understand the problems you meet and need to solve.
I WCAG 2.2 audit of your website tests it against 56 WCAG A & AA checkpoints on a variety of different platforms (including mobile and tablet), using a variety of accessibility tools (e.g., screen reader, keyboard, magnifier, colour contrast changers) and different browsers. Both automated and manual testing are used as part of the audit.
When I carry out an accessibility audit I ask two of my disabled colleagues will give feedback on the accessibility of your website. John Turley is blind and uses a screen reader on both his mobile phone and laptop; Ruby Shah has a visual impairment and uses a variety of accessibility tools including a screen magnifier and contrast changer. They will also test the site to ensure that it is keyboard-only accessible.
The length of the report can vary depending on the size of the website, the amount of issues found, and their complexity.
An accessibility audit is your first step to ensuring you are complying with relevant equality laws and reach more poeple with your content and your message.
“We requested a root-and-branch evaluation of our website to help inform its development, and in a short space of time Jim and his fantastic team put together an incredibly comprehensive report that fulfilled every aspect of our brief. He was able to identify specific instances of non-compliance, as well as highlight recurring themes and issues and make recommendations to ensure that our web presence not only complies with WCAG AA standards but is fully optimised for usability. Moreover, the first-hand feedback from his auditors provided invaluable insight into the UX of users with disabilities. I’d be delighted to recommend Jim and his colleagues to anyone looking to make their web presence accessible to the widest possible audience.”
Alex Norton (Communications Manager, CLOSER)
Contact me today to discuss your accessibility needs. I provide accessibility advice and support as well as practical services such as website and document accessibility auditing.
The aim of this Success Criterion is to eliminate the need for precise dexterity when dragging dynamic elements on a web page. The reality is that not all users can accurately press, hold, and reposition a pointer simultaneously.
Those individuals who find such precise pointer movements problematic should get the same result as their dexterous colleagues, using just a single pointer. Individuals helped by this success criteria include website visitors using input devices like trackballs, head pointers, eye-gaze systems, or speech-controlled mouse emulators.
This criterion excludes scrolling enabled by the user-agent (i.e., browser, screen reader, media players, mobile devices, and assistive technologies), and techniques like CSS overflow to create scrollable content sections. The CSS overflow property creates a scrollable content section with a webpage.
If an equivalent option allows single-pointer access without dragging, this Success Criterion is met. It doesn’t have to be the same component, as long as the functionality is equivalent. For instance, a colour wheel with a dragging indicator can be complemented by text fields for numerical input.
The checkpoint does not include any scrollbars on the browser itself or draggle functionality that is native to the browser interface. It only applies to draggle content created by the website author.
Website accessibility is not just on compliance; it is also about fostering inclusivity and adhering to legal mandates. In this article I explore the legal facets and basic principles that underscore website accessibility in the UK.
Making your website accessible is more than just a checkbox exercise. An accessible, usable site is a gateway to diverse audiences, enhanced user experiences, and legal compliance. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that about 22% of the UK population reported having a disability in 2021. Taking heed of inclusivity is not just an ethical issue, it also ensures your content is available to the widest possible audience.
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 places a legal duty on service providers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure their digital services are accessible. Non-compliance not only invites legal repercussions but potentially puts up barriers to a significant portion of your audience. Accessibility is not just an option; it’s an ethical and legal necessity.
And if you don’t get it right the danger is that you will tarnish your reputation and your brand. The last thing you need is to find that a disabled person, backed up by the expertise of an organisation such as the RNIB, threatening to take you to court because your website was found to be inaccessible.
To craft an inclusive digital space, the UK government looks to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines, backed by the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 (for public secor organisations and those recieving funding from the public sector), set the standard for accessibility. Embracing these principles ensures websites align not only with best practices but also with specific UK regulations.
Website accessibility isn’t just about ticking boxes, it’s about embracing diversity, it’s about your legal obligations and it’s about looking after your brand. The last thing you want is to be outed as an organisation that does not take its equality obligations seriously. Instead, you can be proactive by being a champion of accessibility and at the same time connect with a broader audience.
Get in touch if you need help ensuing your digital content is legally compliant and is accessible to your widest possible audience.
This short article will set out the basic ideas underlying the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2 (WCAG 2).
The WCAG 2 guidelines are based on four principles: all content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
Ok, if you are anything like me, that’s about as clear as mud. So to understand it, let’s start by defining what some of these words/principles mean; which we can do by translating them from WCAG speak to the much simpler, Jim speak.
WCAG speak: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
Jim speak: The site visitor must be able to recognise that the content exists. For example, by being able to see it, hear it, or touch it (e.g. being presented as raised dots for a braille user).
WCAG speak: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
Jim speak: The site visitor must be able to navigate around the site and use the features and functions presented.
WCAG speak: It should be easy to understand page content and easy to use the website.
Jim speak: Not only should visitors be able to recognise the existence of the content and be able to interact with it, but they must also be able to understand it.
WCAG speak: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Jim speak: It must be possible to access the content using everything from a text-only web browser to the latest Firefox browser. And everything in between, including screen readers and all the different brands and versions of browsers now available
‘Success criteria’, may not be a phrase that most people will be familiar with; however it is an idea at the heart of WCAG 2 – so we need to figure out what it means.
WCAG speak: For each principle there are guidelines. For each guideline, there are testable ‘success criteria’.
Jim speak: There are things you will need to check to assess whether your website is accessible or not.
Providing accessible Internet services, including accessible web design, website accessibility auditing, website accessibility training, online training, web development, mobile web development and social media integration.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss your latest project ideas.
If you run a website in the UK, it must be accessible to disabled people, it is a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010. But how do you know if your website is accessible or not? One way is to commission an accessibility audit by a professional WCAG 2 auditor. Alternatively, you can use one of the many free, or paid automated auditing tools.
So, why would you pay someone to audit your website when you can just use a free accessibility testing tool? In this short article, I explore the strengths and weaknesses of both of these options.
WAVE, Lighthouse and axeTools, are some of the automated tools you can use to check for on-page accessibility issues. Their strengths are that they give you a quick overview of potential problems. For example, issues such as low colour contrast, missing form labels, empty headings or images without alternative text attributes. There’s no doubt they are useful, as even professional auditors use an array of such applications as part of their toolset. Speed, low cost and ease of use are ways in which these tools win out. However, they do have their weaknesses.
Automated accessibility tools can’t tell you if your website is accessible to disabled people in practice. I.e., will your site be fully compatible with access tools such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, colour contrast changers and so on? An automated auditing tools is unlikely to tell you anything about design elements that might make your site difficult to use, even if technically accessible.
For example, the location of important information on a page can have an impact on how easy content can be consumed. If all your important information is on the right-hand side of a page – that can easily be missed by a visitor using a screen magnifier. A person using a screen magnifier may only see a very small part of the screen at any one time – and they find it difficult to get overal context for your content. Ideally they prefer the most important content to be top-left on a page. That way they will find it first.
An automated tool can find many access issues, but that doesn’t mean you are not at risk of breaking the Equality Act 2010 and finding yourself fighting a lawsuit on the grounds of discrimination against disabled people. For example, an automated tool can check if an image has a text description, but it can’t tell you if the description is accurate or appropriate. Only a human can do that. The guidelines don’t say you have to provide the same content to disabled people as non-disabled people, but it must be equivalent. So, an accurate text alternative is really important for a blind visitor accessing your content using a screen reader.
Principally, the major advantage is that you will be interacting with a real human. Someone you can talk to and discuss your requirements with. As a result, they can tailor their services to your exact needs. You can ask questions, clarify issues and crucially, get help with implementing solutions to any accessibility issues found.
A professional accessible auditor knows the ins and outs of the legal framework within which your organisation must operate. Including whether or not you need to have an accessibility statement on your site and how to write that statement, if you do. Accessibility statements are documents that have a strict, legally defined format.
Auditors are experts on the WCAG 2 guidelines, which are the de facto accessibility guidelines used by most governments, including the UK Government. The WCAG 2 document is a complex, large, jargon packed and highly technical document. It is not very accessible, in the more general sense of the word.
When you commission a manual audit, often the team includes disabled people. These are people with first-hand experience of what make a website accessible or inaccessible. And unlike the automated audit, a manual audit is not a tick-box process, it often includes assessing the general usability of your site, and finding problems that are impossible for automated tools to find.
The downsides are that manual audits take longer to complete, anywhere from two days to 10 days, depending on the size and complexity of your website. And they are not free. However, loss of credibility also has a cost if someone decides to complain that your website is not accessible to them.
So those are some of the things to consider when deciding whether to use an automated tool or commission an audit from a professional auditor. Get in touch if you have any questions or would like to chat about your specific accessibility needs.
* If you are a government agency or receive government funding you also have additional requirements under the public sector equality duty, i.e., you must also ‘anticipate the needs’ of your visitors. A professional auditor will know what you have to have on your website to fulfil the requirement.
Non-profits need to ensure their websites are accessible. This jargon free guide will help.
I’m offering a technical website accessibility audit and report to Level A of WCAG 2.0 for only £950. The audit will be completed and a report delivered to you in five working days.
I have been working in the area of website accessibility since 1996, so you can be sure that no-one else will bring more experience or expertise to the auditing process. If you want to have a chat or if you have any questions feel free to give me a phone on 07810 098 119.
Here is a summary of what an audit of your website would involve.
Email and telephone support will be provided after the report has been delivered. I will answer any questions you may have and guide you towards the actions needed to fix the identified issues.
The cost of the accessibility audit includes a retest after the issues identified have been fixed.
After discussion with yourself we will choose representative pages and sections and functionality of the website. For example, if you have several different layouts or pages with particular functionality those will be included in the sample.
Here is some feedback I received from different organisations I have worked with.
“I have vast confidence in Jim’s abilities, and am frankly quite amazed that he met all of our very demanding requirements so quickly and so professionally! Many developers claim to have knowledge in these areas, but in my experience, very few if any have the practical knowledge and pragmatic approach that Jim has. I would advise any organisation looking for a high quality accessible website to talk to Jim. You won’t be disappointed (he’s also incredibly easy to work with).” Jane Hatton, Founder/Director, Evenbreak.
“As an advisory service on technology and disability it was critical for us that our Publisher Lookup website scored well on accessibility. I was delighted recently when a blind colleague was surfing round the site and spontaneously exclaimed ‘This is a really accessible website’. I told her we like to use people who know their stuff!” Alistair McNaught, Senior advisor, Jisc TechDis
“Jim has worked with the Scottish Accessible Information Forum, (SAIF) for over 10 years and we regard him as our resident expert on accessibility and the web. Last year, Jim redesigned our website to give it a fresh new look while keeping accessibility as a priority. He is always willing to help out with any questions we have and gets back to us promptly with a solution. We would have no hesitation recommending him to other organisations, and we frequently do whenever we get the chance!” Susan Burn, Project Development Officer, SAIF.
“Jim conducted an accessibility audit of the Health Rights Information Scotland (HRIS) website. The report was extremely detailed. It explained what the WCAG guidelines mean, how compliance was assessed, what problems were identified and how these could be fixed. We are confident that implementing Jim’s recommendations will greatly improve the accessibility of our site. The report was, as far as possible, free from technical jargon, and Jim was always more than happy to have a chat about things we did not understand. This evaluation has been extremely useful.” Health Rights Information Scotland Website
Phone me on 07810 098 119 if you would like to chat about any of the above or get in touch via the website accessibility audit contact form.
Just a quick follow up from my New Year Newsletter in which I gently encouraged you to think about your website and online marketing strategy. One area I mentioned in my newsletter was website accessibility. As I am sure you already know, it is considered a form of discrimination if disabled people are not able to access website content (the Equalities Act 2010). So with that in mind I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at the benefits of accessible website design from a slightly different perspective, i.e. the business case.
In September last year I spoke at the Accessibility Scotland conference and an audience member asked whether there was a ‘cast iron’ business case for making a website accessible? They were having trouble trying to get their managers to prioritise accessibility or put any resources into ensuring the website was accessible to disabled people.
‘Off the top of my head’ I could not remember any statistics to quote, though I did mention the usual stuff about a more accessible site generating more traffic, being easier to use and having reduced maintenance costs.
However, it seems that these logical arguments do not ‘cut any ice’ when it comes to making the case; what people want are facts, figures and case studies showing increased traffic and increased sales.
So with that in mind here are three major case studies showing the benefits of accessible website design in real terms.
These case studies clearly show that an accessible website design reduces maintenance costs, increases usability and increases traffic. In short, accessible website design is good for your business.
Even if you are not planning a brand new website from scratch I can help you realise some of the benefits outlined above by making your existing website more accessible. The first step in that process is to have your website audited to see if there are any aspects that are inaccessible to disabled peoples. You will then be in a position to have those issues addressed; thus increasing the accessibility and usability of your website.
As an website accessibility auditor since 1996 I am one of the most experienced and skilled practitioners in the UK. I will check your site against the WCAG 2.0 guidelines to ensure that your site is compliant with the BS8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice.
An audit by myself goes way beyond tick box checks; I will check that your site is accessible and usable to the real people who visit your site.
Contact me today to take advantage of this unique expertise to utilise my expertise to attract more visitors to your website and make it easier to use by everyone. No matter what your budget or how big or small your website is I will be able to provide an audit that fits with your needs.
As well as reading my short WCAG 2 principles article you can now download WCAG 2 Defining The Principles as an MS Word document. This is the one where I translate the rather confusing language of the WCAG 2 website accessibility principles into ‘Jim speak’ i.e. easy to understand language.
This is the shortest possible summary of the WCAG 2 guidelines; it just outlines the basic principles and makes it clear what they mean.
Tags: WCAG 2
Below are some of the tools we use when evaluation websites.
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