In the world of IC, ‘accessible’ can be a bit of a buzzword, taken to mean, ‘Can my reader engage meaningfully with this content?’, or ‘Is there anything that may put my reader off?’
The sticking point here is that the concept of ‘my reader’ has historically been seen through a very narrow lens – not taking into consideration those who may have, for example, impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities or impaired hearing.
That’s why in September 2018 new Accessibility Regulations came into force in the UK. The Accessibility Regulations are a legal obligation for public sector bodies to ensure their website or mobile app can be used by as many people as possible.
And, with at least 1 in 5 people in the UK having a long-term illness, impairment or disability – and many more who have a temporary disability – this change is long overdue.
While the regulations are currently only mandatory for external-facing public sector bodies, focusing on accessibility when building any content platform should be a priority for every organisation.
Help is at hand: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 set out recommendations for improving web accessibility. The internationally recognised guidelines are based on four design principles:
They focus on these principles – rather than technology – to emphasise how us content creators need to think about the different ways people interact with our work.
Common problems include platforms that cannot be navigated using a keyboard, poor colour contrast that makes text difficult to read and inaccessible PDFs that aren’t optimised for use with screen readers.
There are multiple tools available that can facilitate the testing of a platform to ensure it meets the WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards, such as:
- NVDA screen reader for Windows
- VoiceOver on Mac
- Talkback on Android
- Read Out Loud on Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Adobe Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility Checker
- Google Lighthouse
And the literature out there on the regulations, what and who is included in the requirement, as well as valid exemptions, is extensive.
This may feel a little overwhelming for any organisation considering improving the accessibility of its content. The risk is that private sector businesses may be put off conducting this vital work as a result. But we must prioritise all of our readers going forward – and we can help you.
Here at AB, we recently completed a website accessibility audit for the Run a Post Office website, making improvements where necessary. We’ve also worked closely with other clients, optimising their regular online publications to meet the accessibility standard, as well as helping draft their accessibility statements.
If your organisation needs support creating an accessible platform, or conducting an audit of its current platform, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Client Services Director Abi Terry.