A long road to web accessibility

Making a website accessible. People often ask how difficult it is to do. Actually, it’s not as difficult as most people think.

All websites are accessible from the get-go if they’re built with well-structured, semantic HTML. If you add colours with good contrast, fonts that are easy and big enough to read and functionality that works with any device, you’re on your way to an accessible website.

Yet, somewhere along the way things seem to go wrong.

The WebAIM Million

The WebAIM Million provides a review of WCAG (Web Accessibility Content Guidelines) conformance of the top 1,000,000 home pages on the web. The results? Not good. 97.8% of those pages had WCAG failures – almost every single page.

Granted, those errors were detected using WebAIM’s automated WAVE accessibility tool. No manual testing was done to verify those findings. They are quick to point out that automated testing tools generally find about 25% of conformance issues. So, in reality, the lack of accessibility of those 1,000,000 pages could be far worse.

The report identifies several common errors:

  • Low contrast text
  • Missing alternative text for images
  • Empty links
  • Missing form input labels
  • Missing document language
  • Empty buttons

Not one of those issues is difficult to fix or prevent. With a bit of training and a bit of awareness, the results could be much better.

What’s the fix?

Despite the best efforts of so many talented people in the web accessibility field, we still still have a long way to go to fix the web so it works for everyone.

Where do we start? Even though these web errors are technical problems, we need to remember that technology is implemented by people. When all the players on a web team understand web accessibility and are genuinely committed to building an accessible site, things are going to turn out well.

If we’re going to make the next 1,000,000 pages accessible, we all have to buy in, and believe in, inclusive design.