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Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Glasgow for The Third Sector, Voluntary, Charities and Not for Profits

Accessible, Responsive Website Design
Jim Byrne Web Designer

Accessibility consultancy – what is it and why do you need it?

Published: February 7, 2024

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.

What is digital accessibility?

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.

Accessibility – what’s in it for you?

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.

Accessibility and the law

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.

Accessibility pays

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.

How do you ensure your content is accessible?

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).

Accessibility consultancy: take advantage of my decades of expertise and experience

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.

A Website Accessibility Audit example: what does a website access audit consist of?

A WCAG 2.2 AA accessibility audit

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.

My website audits include feedback from disabled people

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.

You get a detailed report including:

  • An executive summary, highlighting the most important issue to fix.
  • A table showing the percentages of checkpoints that have passed failed, or are not applicable (N/A).
  • A list of all relevant checkpoints with notes relating to any issues found and suggested fixes.
  • A full checkpoint summary table showing whether each has passed, failed, or is N/A
  • The full unedited notes from my disabled colleagues. I provide unedited notes because they will give you a good sense of how a disabled person interacts with your website content. Relevant parts of these notes are also incorporated into the checkpoint notes.

The length of the report can vary depending on the size of the website, the amount of issues found, and their complexity.

An accessibility consultancy service designed to help you

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.

WCAG 2.2 – 2.5.7 Dragging Movements (Level AA) – A Summary

Published: February 6, 2024

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.

The WCAG 2.2 2.5.7 Success Criteria states:

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.

Alternatives for Dragging Movements on the Same Page

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.

What is not included

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.

Accessibility auditing and consultancy

I provide comprehensive digital content accessibility consultancy services, including an accessibility auditing of your websites and documents – measured against the WCAG 2.2 standard. Get in touch to ensure your content is accessible to your widest possible audience and meets equality legislation requirements.

WCAG 2.2 – Success Criterion 2.4.11, Focus Not Obscured

Published: February 2, 2024

The release of WCAG 2.2 introduced two new level A success criteria and four new level AA success criteria.  In this post, I provide a summary of Success Criterion 2.4.11, Focus Not Obscured.

Success Criterion 2.4.11, Focus Not Obscured

The primary goal of this success criteria is to ensure that when an element has keyboard focus, it is at least partially visible. Clearly, if users can’t see the focused item, navigating forward is going to be difficult. This is particularly critical for those reliant on a keyboard, or any device operating via a keyboard interface – like a switch or voice input. It is also critical for users with cognitive or memory impairment.

Given the prevalence of complex responsive website designs today, this criterion acknowledges that there may well be times when a focused component is not fully visible; so, rather than saying that it must be fully visible, it stipulates that it must be at least partially visible. The ideal situation would, of course, be for all focus components to be entirely visible – and indeed this is required for WCAG 2.2 AAA compliance.

Sticky headers, footers and non-modal dialogs

Common culprits include sticky footers, headers, and non-modal dialogs (non-modal dialogs allow users to interact with other objects outside the dialog without closing it.). As visitors tab through the page, these layers can obstruct the item in focus, along with its focus indicator.

For example, a cookie banner would fail this Success Criterion if it completely obscures the focused component. Remedies could include requiring that the user dismiss the cookie banner before continuing to navigate the page. Or the issue can be remedied by incorporating scroll padding to prevent overlap with other content.

What is scroll padding?

By setting scroll padding, developers can ensure that when the browser scrolls to a specific section of the page, there is some additional space added around it. The additional space creates a buffer zone, preventing the content from being hidden behind fixed elements like headers. It ensures that the content is visible and not obscured by other elements on the page. You will find an example of how it works on the ‘CSS scroll-padding Property’ page of the W3 Schools website.

When the focus item is obscured by semi-transparent content

If the item obscuring the item in focus is semi-transparent, i.e. the user can still see the item in focus that that is not considered a checkpoint fail – unless the contrast between the item in focus on the visible background is below the minimum contrast ratio.

Exceptions to criteria: 2.4.11, Focus Not Obscured

There are some exceptions to this criteria. If the ‘in focus item’ is obscured because the user moved a content region over it – then that is not considered a fail.

Secondly, if the focus element is obscured by something the user opened themselves – and they can dismiss that item again – that is not a fail. For example, a drop-down menu on the navigation bar is opened by the visitor and is then dismissed when choosing an item from the menu closing the menu.

Resources

Further information can be found at W3C Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (Level AA).

Accessibility auditing and consultancy

I provide comprehensive digital content accessibility consultancy services, including an accessibility auditing of your websites and documents – measured against the WCAG 2.2 standard. Get in touch to ensure your content is accessible to your widest possible audience and meets equality legislation requirements.

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07810 098 119

Alternative access to client feedback

“The audit was extremely comprehensive, clear and demonstrated Jim’s expertise in the area of accessible web design.” Peter Madden, Project Manager, Sealed Envelope Ltd