The internet should be barrier-free, giving everyone the right to access useful information. For this to be possible, website owners must keep e-accessibility in mind.
The World Health Organisation defines e-accessibility as ‘the ease of use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the internet, by people with disabilities’.
E-accessibility is mainly for people with disabilities, the elderly and those living in places that are still developing technologically. All of these people could be your clients, so it’s important to keep their needs in mind.
Since 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has recommended minimum standards for e-accessibility. The W3C is a community led by the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, in which diverse international organisations and internet users work together to develop technical specifications for web accessibility.
This article will discuss the following topics:
- the advantages of having an accessible website
- mandatory e-accessibility criteria
- how to check that your website is e-accessible
- how to publicise your accessibility
The advantages of having an accessible website
An e-accessible website takes more development than one that is not e-accessible – but e-accessible websites can:
- improve your position on search engines – as they receive better rankings than those that limit access to certain users
- improve your global network – e-accessible websites open your site up to business from people with disabilities, the elderly and other communities – so your site could receive more visits and conversions
Mandatory e-accessibility criteria for your website
As a tourism business owner, it is important that your website complies with e-accessibility requirements.
The W3C has established levels showing the accessibility of websites. The 3 levels – A, AA and AAA – are based on different criteria and range from minimum conformance (A) to maximum conformance (AAA). Each level guarantees access to information for certain groups of users.
There are important elements to bear in mind when making your website accessible:
Your site should contain text alternatives for eachimage, video, or audio track that describes or gives information. This enables people with visual or hearing impairments to interpret corresponding text that describes the media.
The text should provide all the important information from the original version. For example, if there is a picture of a hotel room demonstrating the dimensions, views and style, then the text alternative should also include this information.
Keyboard accessible navigation
Some users have special keyboards or other assistive technology to browse websites. Your website should be accessible to this assistive technology and should not require the use of a mouse. The W3C provides a guide to keyboard-accessible websites.
Use of colour
Colour may greatly influence the design of your website, but it could also affect different comfort levels depending on the contrast being used. For instance, users could face difficulties if 2 colours don’t contrast effectively. You should also avoid referencing colours in the text. For example, do not say ‘click on the green link to reserve your room’.
For more information on how to use colours appropriately, read the WC3's recommendations for colour and contrast.
Flash and moving animations
Some people may experience discomfort when viewing fast-moving animations or flashing images. We recommend avoiding animations and videos that contain more than 3 flashes per second. Alternatively, you could provide the user with an option to eliminate this type of content. See the W3C guidelines on avoiding content that can cause seizures.
You should provide users with simple buttons that allow them to zoom in and out to alter text size. This is because people with reduced vision may find it difficult to read the text on your website. These buttons will not affect the text size of image captions or text in graphic elements.
Use of PDF documents
Including PDF documents on websites is very common nowadays. PDF files can hold a large amount of information that is difficult to include directly on your site. However, these files are often edited without meeting e-accessibility standards. Before you upload any PDFs, read techniques for PDF accessibility to learn about key rules.
Contextual and orientation information: sections and subsections
Areas, sections, and subsections that make up your site should be clearly identified to help users working with assistive technologies. You shouldedit the HTML coding to provide orientation information.
W3C has published a guide to essential components for web accessibility to help you develop a website that complies with e-accessibility regulations.
You may also read about the web accessibility initiative, which will give you a global perspective on the importance of e-accessibility for millions of web users.
See the EU guide to e-accessibility.
How to check that your website is e-accessible
This list can be used as a checklistto make sure that the website you have developed, or are going to develop, complies with a series of basic guidelines on e-accessibility.
The more questions you answer ‘yes’ to, the more e-accessible your website is.
- my website uses text alternativesfor each image, providing information that is both relevant and recognisable to web browsers
- my website uses text alternatives for the buttons that are presented as images
- my website offers text transcriptionsof the videos and audio clips published on the site
- my website and its sections can be navigatedbyusing the keyboard
- my website uses accessible colours and the combination of these colours provides an appropriate level of contrast
- my website avoids the use of animations and videos that contain more than 3 flashes per second
- my website provides mechanisms that allow visitors to deactivate and eliminate the audio-visual elements that use flash before they begin
- my website includes accessible PDF documents that follow the basic e-accessibility regulations (such as using text alternatives for images and linking table of contents entries)
- my website includes buttons to increase and decrease text size
- my website uses an appropriate text size that is legible in images, videos, graphics, etc.
- my website does not depend on the use of colours as relevant browsing information – all important information is independent of the use of colours
- my website does not contain links such as ‘click on the green button’ – instead, it uses links such as ‘click on ACCEPT’ in order to clearly indicate the correct step to users who may have problems distinguishing certain colours
- the sections of my website have been tagged via HTML coding so that they can be identified
- my website has been correctly structured with sections and subsections in order to facilitate access to different types of information in each general section
For a more complete review of your website, visit the W3C accessibility evaluation resources where you will find helpful guides to make your website 100% accessible.
If you have already developed your website, you can use an online accessibility evaluation tool to determine its level of e-accessibility.
How to publicise your accessibility
Once you have developed your website according to W3C guidelines – and evaluated it to determine which level of e-accessibility is has – you can include a distinctive icon on your website showing visitors that it respects e-accessibility regulations.
The W3C has a guide on accessibility conformance logos. It details the standards and regulations for use of these icons, and gives information for downloading and including them on your website.