Why Accessibility is Crucial for Third Sector Organisations
Published: April 17, 2023
Third sector organisations work hard to serve their communities. However, many overlook the need to ensure their website content is accessible to all visitors, including disabled people. Websites that are not designed with accessibility in mind can exclude disabled people from accessing information and services.
In this short post, I explore why accessibility is crucial for third sector oranisations, and some steps they can take to ensure their websites are accessible.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the practice of designing websites that are accessible to disabled people. For example, people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments. Everyone, regardless of their abilities, should be able to access information and services online.
There are laws and guidelines that require websites to be accessible, including The Equality Act 2010, British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Why Accessibility Matters for Third Sector Organisations
Third-sector oranisations have a unique responsibility to ensure their websites are accessible to all users. These organisations often work with marginalised communities, including disabled people so, it’s important that their websites reflect their commitment to equality and inclusivity.
In addition to ethical considerations by ensuring that their content is available to all users, these organisations can expand their impact and connect with people who may not have been able to access their services otherwise.
If their websites are not accessible third sector oranisations leave themselves open to potential legal challenges – if they are percieved to be discrimination against disabled people – under the Equality Act 2010. Lawsuits and negative publicity can harm the reputation and effectiveness of third sector organisations.
Designing an Accessible Website for Third Sector Organisations
Creating an accessible website involves following best practices for website design and using tools and resources that can help ensure accessibility. Some best practices include:
There are also several tools and resources available to help third-sector organisations create accessible websites. Accessibility checkers can scan websites for potential accessibility issues, and WCAG guidelines provide detailed information about best practices for accessibility.
Website accessibility is a crucial aspect of web design for third-sector organisations. By ensuring that their websites are accessible to all users, they can increase their reach, align with their missions, and avoid legal risk.
Accessibility testing: Should you commission a manual accessibility WCAG 2 audit or use an automated accessibility tool?
Published: February 1, 2023
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.
Automated accessibility testing tools – the strengths
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.
Weaknesses of automated accessibility testing tools
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.
Are you vulnerable to a lawsuit?
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.
Input from disabled people
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.
Downsides to a manual accessibility audit
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.
WCAG 2.1 Guidelines Explained
Published: April 12, 2022
A history lesson: where did the website accessibility guidelines come from and what’s in them?
- 1995: The first web accessibility guidelines were compiled by Gregg Vanderheiden shortly after the 1995 Chicago WWW II Conference.
- 1998: University of Wisconsin–Madison compiled the Unified Web Site Accessibility Guidelines.
- 1999: they formed the basis for WCAG 1.0.
WCAG 1.0. were focused on HTML and web pages.
- 14 guidelines.
- 65 checkpoints.
- Each with a priority level: A, AA. AAA.
A Compliance: the guidelines must be satisfied otherwise it will be impossible for one or more groups to access the Web content.
AA Compliance: should be satisfied, otherwise some groups will find it difficult to access the Web content.
AAA Compliance: may be satisfied: to make it easier for some groups to access the Web content.
14 WCAG 1 Guidelines
- Guideline 1: Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
- Guideline 2: Don’t rely on colour alone.
- Guideline 3: Use markup and style sheets, and do so properly.
- Guideline 4: Clarify natural language usage.
- Guideline 5: Create tables that transform gracefully.
- Guideline 6: Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully.
- Guideline 7: Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes.
- Guideline 8: Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces.
- Guideline 9: Design for device independence.
- Guideline 10: Use interim solutions.
- Guideline 11: Use W3C technologies and guidelines.
- Guideline 12: Provide context and orientation information.
- Guideline 13: Provide clear navigation mechanisms.
- Guideline 14: Ensure that documents are clear and simple.
WCAG 2 – Published 2008
Not just websites, but also PDF, Google Docs, Spreadsheets, e-Books… and other ‘digital assets’.
WCAG 2.1 – Published 2018
- WCAG 2.1 does not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0.
- The differences between WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are mostly related to the use of tablets and mobile devices.
- They are designed to make content more accessible to a wider range of people, including accommodations for blindness and low vision.
WCAG 2.1 Based on 4 Principles
What do the principles mean?
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.
- 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: information and the operation of user interfaces must be understandable.
- 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.
Each Principle Has A Set Of Guidelines
1. Perceivable: the guidelines relate to:
- Text alternatives for non-text content.
- Captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Content can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
Operable: the guideline Relate To:
- Ensuring functionality is available for keyboard users.
- Giving users enough time to read and use content.
- Avoiding content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Making it easier to use inputs other than by keyboard.
Understandable: the guideline Relate To:
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
Robust: the guideline Relate To:
- Maximising compatibility with current and future user tools.
- For example, by using valid code.
For Each Principle
There are guidelines – these are the basic goals that authors should work toward in order to make content more accessible.
And For Each Guideline
Ther are ‘testable success criteria’.
- Three levels of conformance are defined as: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest).
- Techniques and examples are provided for meeting those criteria.
- All ‘success criteria’ apply to mobile platforms as well as desktop platforms.
- However, the techniques sections does not yet fully cover mobile techniques.
Tags: accessibility, accessible, criteria, Gregg Vanderheiden, legislation, operable, percievable, robust, standards, understandable, validation, WCAG 1, WCAG 2, web development
All Accessibility Blog Posts
Published: April 8, 2022
Tags: accessible, accessible website design, alt attributes, audit, blog, British Standards, captions, disabled people, equality act 2010, PDFs, wcag, WCAG 2, wcag2, wordpress
Free Guide: How To Keep Your Website Accessible
Published: January 10, 2018
Non-profits need to ensure their websites are accessible. This jargon free guide will help.
5 ideas to improve your online presence and make your site more secure in 2018
Published: January 9, 2018
Happy New Year. I hope you had a restful break. 🙂
This is the time of year to make plans; freshen up your website; reach more people or try to do things more efficiently.
Here are five things to consider as we move in to 2018. Click the appropriate link for information about those activities you are interested in:
1. Make sure your website has been upgraded or re-designed to work well on mobiles and tablet computers. 2017 was the year that mobile usage finally overtook desktop browsing. Every website now needs to be a ‘responsive’ website and able to operate on all devices. Is yours?
The importance of having a mobile friendly website is, of course, not new. In 2016 Google made changes to the way they rank sites, to the extent that more mobile friendly sites are moved up the rankings. It is no longer simply about usability, it’s also about whether you can be found at all, ‘on any platform’. Gianluca Fiorelli wrote in the Moz* newsletter (Moz are an SEO consulting company) that, ‘Google is steadily moving to a mobile-only world’. Get in touch if you would like to discuss upgrading yours site to work well on mobiles.
2. Consider commissioning an accessibility audit of your site. You may be breaking the law without knowing it. If you web content is not accessible to disabled people that is considered a form of discrimination under the Equalities Act 2010.
If you ensure your website is accessible you are likely to increase the audience for your content. Accessible websites also tend to be easier to use for all visitors. This is an area I have over two decades of experience in so if you have any questions or if you would like to commission an audit get in touch. Get back to me within two days of receiving this newsletter and I promise to provide an unprecedented good deal on a website accessibility audit of your site. I will check your site against WCAG 2 level 2, or whatever level you require.
3. Ensure your website is protected against being hacked and that if you are hacked you have your content backed up. I am currently providing a discount on my standard website backup service.
I also provide a 24/7 monitoring (and cleanup) service to ensure that if your website gets hacked you will know right away. Immediate action is required if you website is hacked:
- If you are hacked and Google detects that your site has been hacked then your site will be blacklisted. This means that Google will start to tell visitors that your site is dangerous. Clearly that is not good for your credibility and, of course, you will lose much of your traffic as not many people will override a Google warning to visit your content. Once Google has blacklisted your site you need to clear your site of malicious content and then you need to try to get Google to remove the blacklisting.
- Hackers can add malicious code and content to your site and serve adverts to your visitors without you noticing. If you visit your site directly it looks fine. However when people are finding your site via Google it appears to be serving drugs or porn or some other malicious content.
In other words you need your site to be monitored and you need to be alerted right away if malicious code or content has been added to your site. You might think it won’t ever happen to you. Not true, it is almost guaranteed that you will be hacked at some point. 43,000 sites get hacked every day and 10,000 sites get blacklisted by Google every day. Get in touch if you have a WordPress website and you are not already using a monitoring and cleanup service. Not only can I give you a great deal, I’ll also install the monitoring software for free.
4. Make sure you are ready for the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The GDPR is the EU data protection regulation which replaces the current Data Protection Act. It aims to simplify regulation and give individuals more control over their personal data. I recently wrote a short summary about the GDPR I think you will find useful.
5. Get a brand new accessible, mobile friendly, feature rich website; one that is designed from the ground up to help you meet your goals, whether that be to get more members, sell more products or get more people registered for your newsletter. If it’s been on your mind for a while now’s the perfect time to take action.
Get in touch if you want to chat about any of the above. Tel: 07810 098119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best,
The ‘cast iron’ business case for accessible website design
Published: January 17, 2017
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.
The business case for accessible website design
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.
- CNET: there was a 30% increase in traffic from Google after CNET started providing transcripts (reported AST(.ppt) “We saw a significant increase in SEO referrals when we launched an HTML version of our site, the major component of which was our transcripts.” – Justin Eckhouse, CNET, 2009.
- Legal & General Group: visitor numbers doubled, maintenance costs were cut by two thirds, natural search traffic increased by 50%. .
- Tesco: ‘the site now attracts a much wider audience, spending £13 million a year, which is a fraction of the original cost of £35,000 to develop the accessible site’ (John Browett, Tesco Chief Executive). Read the Tesco case study. (2004, UK).
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.
Web Accessibility Auditing Service :
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.
The WCAG 2 principles translated to simple ‘Jim speak’
Published: December 15, 2014
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.
Or phone to talk over your ideas: 07810 098 119.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2 (WCAG 2) translating from WCAG Speak to Jim Speak
Published: August 8, 2014
This short article will set out the basic ideas underlying the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2 (WCAG 2).
Here is the shortest possible summary of the guidelines:
The WCAG 2 guidelines are based on four principles: all content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust.
- For each principle there are guidelines.
- For each guideline there are testable ‘success criteria’.
- For each guideline and success criteria there are related techniques.
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.
Part 1: Defining the principles
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: Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
Jim speak: Not only should visitors be able to recognise the existence of the content and be able to interact with it, 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 – what does that mean?
‘Success criteria’, it 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.
Stay tuned for part two: a summary of the guidelines for each principle.
Web Accessibility testing to meet W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2)
Published: July 29, 2014
Take advantage of my unique live on-site website accessibility auditing service
In addition to the traditional formal web content accessibility audits I provide a unique ‘live’ audit carried out on-site with your web development team and web editors.
The process involves assessing the website(s) against the W3C WCAG 2 checkpoints – in an informal group environment. This allows discussion, instant clarification of points made, and means questions can be asked related to access issues as they arise.
I was and the first to offer this unique service. Few web content accessibility auditors have the confidence, knowledge and experience to be able to offer this type of ‘live’ on-site audit.
Benefits of a live on-site access audit
- Saves you an enormous amount of time, as feedback is instant. You get instant feedback on any access issues found on your site.
- You get the right people motivated and involved. A traditional report may sit on a shelf and never be read by website developers or web editors; the motivation to read the report can be low (as often the developers themselves did not commission the audit) and often recommendations are not put into practice.
Contact me now to ask about your live on-site web content accessibility audit. It will save you time, save you money and give you the knowledge to reach your largest potential online audience.
What have you got to lose if your website is not accessible?
Visitors and potential customers
Millions of disabled people across the world have billions of pounds to spend (£50 billion in the UK alone).
40 percent of the UK population are 45+, eyesight, hearing and dexterity all deteriorate as we get older but older people have money to spend; perhaps on your website, if it is accessible.
If you provide a service via the web and your site is not accessible to disabled people you are breaking the law and running the risk of damaging your business reputation.
What are the advantages of having an access audit carried out on your Website?
The audit will highlight access problems with your Website and produce a list of recommended changes. These changes if taken ‘on-board’ will produce advantages:
- Your Website will work on more Internet connected devices and Web browsers.
- You will have more potential customers for your service or content.
- You are less likely to fall foul of the UK Equality Act 2010.
- Your support costs will be lower (certainly less people will e-mail you to tell you about the bits that don’t work). Accessible, standards based websites are easier to maintain and change.
- Accessible Websites also tend to be easier to use – leading to a more positive user experience.
- You will avoid potentially damaging legal claims from users unable to use your site for a reason related to their impairment.
Jim Byrne contributed to the Scottish Enterprise ‘Smart Guide’ on Web Accessibility – the guide outlined some of the advantages for businesses:
- If you’re in e-commerce, that means more sales;
- If you sell advertising, it means more hits;
- If your aim is to cut costs on public enquiries, it means fewer sales
staff and overheads;
- If you use the Web to recruit staff, it means more applicants;
- If your purpose is to provide public services, it means minimising
“The net effect of all these potential benefits is by no means trivial. The overall cost-benefit of addressing accessibility is almost always significant, and often dramatic. Conversely, the costs of not taking it seriously can be equally important, as some firms have already found out to their cost.”
Will the look of my site have to change?
Making your Website accessible is about ensuring that all of your visitors can access the information and resources on your site – not about changing the look of your site. If there are features of your current site that are inaccessible to a particular groups of visitors – an access audit will point these out but that does not mean you must do away with these features. Instead it will recommend alternative ways to ensure that those excluded can access the same information or service.
Having said that, the audit may recommend changes related to colour contrast, your navigation scheme or readability that you may feel are worth adopting – because they will help you to attract more visitors to your site.
What exactly is an Access Audit?
An access audit matches your site against the World Wide Web Consortiums Web Accessibility Guidelines. Use of these guidelines will be combined with almost a decade of experience building and accessible Websites. Depending on the size and complexity of your site and the service commissioned from myself, the result can be a report of anywhere between 30 to 50 pages long which will include a short list of the most important changes needed, a complete discussion of each of the access problems, and a summary list of all of the recommended changes. In addition there is a discussion document to help you get started down the road to making the changes required.
What standard will my Website be tested against?
The World Wide Web Consortiums Web Accessibility Initiative (http://www.w3c.org) have produced a set of standards that are recognised as the definitive authority on the subject of Accessible Web design. I will test your website gains WCAG 2 to the agreed level.
Is it just about making my site accessible to disabled people?
No, accessibility on the Web is a much broader idea. There are now many different devices attached to the Web, for example, Televisions, Personal Digital Assistants, PCs, Macs, Telephones and Braille readers, to name just a few. Accessibility is about ensuring that all Internet connected devices are capable of accessing your service or information. This of course includes the assistive devices used by disabled people, like text only Web browsers or Web browsers that use synthesized speech.