post tag icon UXWeb
25 / 08 / 23

What is digital accessibility – and why should you care? 

There’s no arguing the fact that digitisation is the future. (If there isn’t a website or app for it, does it even exist!?) But with more and more businesses taking their services online, the need for digital accessibility is now crucial for any platform worth its salt.  

Does your business embrace digital accessibility? If not, here’s why you should and what you can do to become accessibility compliant.  

What is digital accessibility?    

Digital accessibility is about making digital products such as websites, apps, and other online resources accessible to everyone. This means anyone who uses your digital products should be able to acquire the same information – and enjoy the same level of interaction – regardless of potential barriers posed by their individual circumstances.  

These barriers vary greatly and can be broken down into three key areas: Permanent, temporary, and situational. 

Permanent barriers are those most often referred to as disabilities. These include but are not limited to conditions affecting a person’s sight, hearing, speech, mobility, motor functions, and cognitive ability. They may be the result of an accident or illness, the aging process, or a congenital condition that a person was born with.  

Temporary barriers are those that restrict a person’s ability to access digital services for a short time only. Examples of these might include a broken arm or light sensitivity following an eye operation.  

Situational barriers are those that result from a person’s current situation or location. Examples of these might be a language barrier if you’re accessing digital services in a foreign country, or a poor internet connection affecting the speed and quality of an online service.  

In each of these cases, it’s the business owner's responsibility to ensure their digital services are accessible to all by including provisions that overcome these barriers for their users. 


Why bother making your digital products accessible? 

Although the Equality Act 2010 states that all organisations must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure their digital services can be accessed by all, at the time of writing, only public sector bodies are legally required to comply with official Government Accessibility Legislation for their digital products.  

Even though digital accessibility isn’t a current legal requirement for most businesses, however, the threat to businesses that aren’t running digitally accessible products is considerable.    

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) around 1.3 billion people globally self-identify as having a disability. That's equivalent to over 15% of the world’s population. Add to this those facing temporary or situational barriers to digital products, and you’re probably looking a figure closer to 20%.  

By not making your digital platforms accessible to all, you are in effect turning away every fifth potential customer who walks through your virtual door, not to mention those who choose to boycott your services in support of other, more inclusive businesses. 

Additional benefits of digital accessibility  

There are other benefits to improving the accessibility of your digital products, too. Aside from ensuring people with potential barriers can use and enjoy your online services, accessibility provisions make digital products easier for everyone to use – including those who aren’t tech savvy.  

This is because digital accessibility requirements include things like readability, ease of navigation, and ensuring your digital platform works equally well across a range of different devices.    

Another benefit of making your online services more accessible is it automatically improves your platform’s Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. Google likes websites that use best practice, are informative, and easy to understand. The more thorough, compliant, and user-friendly your website, the more likely Goggle is to serve it up to your prospective customer as a relevant search result.  

So, while the Government's Accessibility Legislation isn’t yet mandatory for all digital platforms, the criteria set out for public sector compliance is a best-practice guide for ensuring your online services meet with the necessary accessibility requirements for all your potential customers.    

Criteria for digital accessibility 

The Government's Accessibility Legislation uses international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help businesses assess the accessibility of their digital products and ensure they meet the right standards.  

These guidelines use the POUR system, which requires digital products to be: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. 

Perceivable relates to the way digital information is delivered and ensures all users can have equal access to a platform’s content. It covers things like: 

  • Providing text alternatives (alt text) for images, and videos. 
  • Making content distinguishable – separating foreground from background, for example, and not relying on colour to differentiate information.  
  • Adaptable content that can be presented in various ways without degrading its information or structure. The use of H1, H2, and H3 headings for text is an example of this as screen readers prioritise content based on these headings.   

Operable relates to the way a user accesses the platform. It covers things like:  

  • Ensuring all functions can be carried out by keyboard without the use of a mouse.  
  • Providing ways to help users navigate content, such as clear menus and buttons. 
  • Allowing enough time for users to read and use content like video captions with the use of play/pause functions. 

Understandable relates to how users digest and interpret information. It covers things like:  

  • Readability – making sure text is easy to read and makes sense 
  • Predictability – making sure the platform is presented and operates in a coherent way 
  • Providing input assistance – helping users avoid and correct input mistakes in online forms, such as flagging misspelled words, for example   

Robust relates to the way content is interpreted by the various devices used to access it. It covers things like: 

  • Ensuring coding is compatible across a wide range of user devices, including assistive technologies   
  • Ensuring the platform keeps up with the latest developments in assistive technologies  

Improve your digital accessibility  

It may seem like a bit of a minefield navigating all the various criteria for digital accessibility. The easiest way to ensure your digital platforms are compliant is to let Formation Media design and build it for you! 

Our in-house creatives have experience working with various public sector businesses, so they know a thing or two about the development, design, and branding of accessible digital products.  

From auditing your existing digital platforms for any accessibility issues to creating bespoke digital products that can be easily accessed and enjoyed by all your potential customers, Formation’s Four-Stage process is a turnkey solution for accessibility compliance.   

Our Four-Stage Process  

  1. Foundation  

In the foundation process, we lay the blueprint for your business, define your services, and provide a roadmap for continuous development. Our focus on user experience (UX) and intuitive design ensures the services we build overcome potential barriers to accessibility to perfectly align with the needs of all users. 

  1. Digitisation 

We work collaboratively to establish and develop your digital presence; whether that involves designing accessible new software to suit your business needs, or the complete accessible digitisation of complex organisations, we provide accessible digital solutions that will drive success.    

  1. Implementation  

Once the digital presence has been established, our team can lead the expansion and marketing of your services. With the help of our skilled photographers, graphic designers, and videographers, we help you to form the wider perception of your brand and services with accessible, inclusive marketing campaigns.  

  1. Promotion  

This final stage of our turnkey solution includes everything from website design, SEO, PR, graphic design, and social media management. We introduce your transformed services back into world, where they can be found and easily accessed by everyone, regardless of the barriers they might be facing.  

If you want to ensure your business’ app, website, or software meets with the highest possible accessibility criteria as specified by Government Accessibility Legislation, the team at Formation will work with you to create an on-brand product that’s as striking and as it is compliant. Get in touch to find out more! 

Written by Emily Formation