3 Common Myths about eAccessibility

Accessibility is a topic around which there is a lot of confusion and misconceptions. I would like to try to shed some light on this subject as I consider it very important in the future development of digital applications.

Accessibility means access.

Accessibility refers to the ability for everyone, regardless of disability or special needs, to access, use and benefit from everything within their environment. It is the “degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility

Accessibility is a very broad term. It encompasses all services (physical or digital) available to the public whereas eAccessibility refers to only the subset of services that can be digitally accessed such as the web, television, mobile, self-service terminals etc.

Here are some of the myths:

Myth 1: it’s a niche market

People with disabilities are not a niche market. Taking only people with ’traditional‘ disabilities into consideration, they already make up the world’s single, largest minority group accounting for 16% of the global population. If you then add the growing aging population who are experiencing vision, hearing and mobility challenges along with people who have a temporary limitation (statistically, most people during their lifetime will have a disability or experience a limitation that will temporarily or permanently affect their lives). That is quite a ’niche‘ you are excluding from your digital service if it isn’t accessible.

Myth 2: it doesn’t affect me

Have you heard of the curb cut effect? Curb cuts, which are originally intended for wheelchair users to be able to climb pavements, also help cyclists, parents with strollers, children on tricycles, delivery people with trollies, people dragging suitcases etc. climb those pavements. This beneficial side effect is called the curb cut effect.

Similarly, accessible websites which are designed for traditionally disabled people are also very helpful for people who have:

  • Old browsers
  • Low bandwidth
  • No speakers
  • Small screens
  • Language barriers
  • Missing plug-ins

And therefore, an accessible digital service might also benefit you.

Myth 3: it’s complicated

This myth is actually true 😉 But once you get the hang of it, it does become less complicated. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) within the W3C developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) with the aim of providing a single shared standard for web and mobile content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. The WCAG comprises 12 guidelines that are organized in four principles and have three levels of conformance. See – really easy!

Principle 1: Perceivable

  • Guideline 1.1 text alternatives: Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Guideline 1.2 time-based media: Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Guideline 1.3 adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways,
    including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Guideline 1.4 distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content.

Principle 2: Operable

  • Guideline 2.1 keyboard accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Guideline 2.2 enough time: Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Guideline 2.3 seizures: Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Guideline 2.4 navigable: Help users navigate and find content.

Principle 3: Understandable

  • Guideline 3.1 readable: Make text readable and understandable.
  • Guideline 3.2 predictable: Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Guideline 3.3 input assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Principle 4: Robust

  • Guideline 4.1 Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

Each guideline comprises of a number of success criterion that are classified as Level A, AA or AAA. For example, guideline 1.4, which is about making it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background, comprises of nine success criterion.

Success criterion 1.4.1 is about the use of color. It dictates that color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. (Level A)

Success criterion 1.4.3 is about contrast (minimum). It dictates that the visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, except for the following: large text, incidentals and logotypes (Level AA)

And finally, success criterion 1.4.6 is about contrast (enhanced). It dictates that the visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 7:1, except for the following: large text, incidentals and logotypes (level AAA)

So, the higher the level, the more demanding the success criterion for achieving that level are. Generally, the level A success criterion are easy to achieve and do not require large changes to the site design. level AA success criterion are already more difficult to achieve and will most probably seriously impact the design. level AAA success criterion are the most difficult to achieve and most companies will choose not to adhere to them in order to not compromise their design. WCAG states, however, that: “It is not recommended that Level AAA conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites because it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria for some content.“ Therefore, it is commonly agreed that Level AA is sufficient to cater to most people’s needs.

I hope this helped shed some light on eAccessibility. If you are interested in hearing more about this topic, see http://www.services.avnet.com/en-us/emea/business-solutions/Pages/Digital-Experience-Design/Offerings/eAccessibility.aspx

Being accessible is the right thing to do.

Portraitfoto: Rebecca Okoroji

Rebecca Okoroji

Head of Digital Experience Design - EMEA

Avnet Services

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