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Accessibility in the Digital World

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The U.S. Census Bureau reports that over 56 million Americans have a disability of some kind. The Global Economics of Disability Annual Report states that 1.3 billion people worldwide – nearly one in five people on the planet – have a disability. A 2007 report found that “21 million Americans report functional vision problems or eye conditions that may compromise vision.”

Of course, most people with disabilities – particularly in the United States – are active online.

While U.S. federal agencies, private entities that receive public funding, and independent software vendors that sell to organizations that receive federal funding are required by law to make Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessible, there are still many websites, applications and other digital content that are not truly accessible.

Providing a digitally accessible experience means building digital content and applications that can be used by people with disabilities. This can apply to websites, mobile apps, desktop apps, video games, and electronic documents. Many people with disabilities use some form of Assistive Technology to navigate computers and mobile devices.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Conformance (WCAG) is the global standard in digital accessibility guidelines. It enables all organizations to measure the accessibility of content, sites, and apps against documented success criteria for all people, including those with disabilities. Following the shorthand, “P.O.U.R” for the principles underlying WCAG is a good place to start when looking to achieve digital accessibility.

Perceivable

Making sure that your digital content can be used by those that have disabilities, specifically involving disabilities around sight or hearing. It is important to provide text alternatives for non-text content and to provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia. It is also important to create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.

One example would be screen readers. Can a screen reader like VoiceOver or ChromeVOx, process and relay the digital information effectively?

Operable

Not only is it important for all people to be able to perceive your content, but it is also important that a person can actually use it. Making functionality available from a keyboard, giving users enough time to read and use content, helping users navigate and find content, and making it easier to use inputs other than the keyboard are things to keep in mind in making sure your content is operable. It is also important to choose content and colors that do not cause seizures or other physical reactions.

Commonly, these criteria are thought of as “tab-able.” Can a person only using the keyboard navigate media using a tab key?

Understandable

If your content cannot be understood by all users, what is the point? Make sure that text is readable and understandable, make content appear and operate in predictable ways, and help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robust

Make sure to maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

Why should your company strive to become more accessible? Integrating technology that is accessible and usable for everyone not only helps users but can help your platform be adopted by more people and businesses.

Accessibility also increases findability – many accessibility techniques will help your site’s search optimization (SEO) and if your site is screen reader-friendly, it’s also search-bot friendly. Accessible is inclusive and can help foster a more inclusive brand and a more inclusive workplace.

The platform that I work on brings physical spaces into the digital world. Digital accessibility is part of the foundation of the platform. We give clients the tools to make their interactive maps and virtual tours as accessible as possible. WCAG standards and POUR considerations guide many of our development road-map and platform decisions. In 2017, we introduced our platform’s Version 2.0. This update included the ability to use ARIA Labels to improve the keyboard and screen reader experience. And while accessibility is an important part of our product road-map every year, we improved several areas in 2018 including enhanced everything from color contrast options to heading tags.

In the world of digital accessibility, even small updates can change the accessibility of a website. For example, if the way finding line on a map is green, it may not be seen by a colorblind individual unless the color contrast is great enough. We give clients the ability to modify select attributes, including the colors of the lines, so they can make their technology more accessible.

By providing accessibility tools and options, the benefits of technology can be much more inclusive overall, and help everyone enjoy and utilize the digital world.

Author Bio

Robert Johnson is the Vice President of Sales at Concept3D where he helps the company expand into new markets and industries. A seasoned sales executive, Johnson’s former roles include Sr. Sales Executive at Four Winds Interactive, Sales Executive at Innotas and 13 + years in the software industry.

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