Understanding how your website is interpreted at the coalface for people with disability can be difficult without a personal connection.
Volunteering WA was lucky enough to host a three-part workshop with Dr Scott Hollier from the Centre for Accessibility – on 10, 17 and 24 August.
Scott is legally blind and told his story of navigating school, higher education, and the world of work. Scott never let his disability hold him back, but he will tell you, that navigating the web is not always smooth sailing for those living with a disability. 17.7% of Australians have some form of permanent disability (ABS 2019) so it makes sense to consider your website’s accessibility.
There is a moral case for website accessibility, to care for others in our society. There is an educational case for improvement in accessibility to online education that may improve social mobility. There is a corporate case for ensuring all customers of all abilities can purchase goods and services. And if you’re still not convinced, there is a legal case to ensure you’re not sued if accessibility is not considered. Accessible websites bring hope and independence to those living with disability. One of Scott’s key messages: disability + technology = independence.
Those with a disability often use assistive technology to navigate the internet. That might be a screen reader, a text-to-speech application that reads out computer and web-related information. It might be a screen magnifier for enlarging content. It might be an on-screen keyboard that enables those with mobility impairments to enter information using a pointing device. It could be on-screen alerts, visual messages that appear in places if audible sounds to help people who are deaf. You must ask yourself; how do you know whether your organisational website will be accessible to all abilities and function effectively with these assistive technologies?
Scott told us about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These are the international standards that benchmark website accessibility compliance. Will your website be accessible for all abilities on Windows, Macintoshes, tablets, and mobile phones? This is where the rubber meets the road in web accessibility. The over-arching principles of WCAG are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust and these delineate the necessary functionality of your website for all abilities. There’s no doubt web accessibility can be a complex and technical space for website developers, but the social, moral, educational, and financial value is tangible. Making your website more accessible allows you to speak to nearly a fifth of all Australians that otherwise might not have access to your organisation. Scott was an awesome presenter who made this complex area accessible for all participants.