Your business needs a web accessibility strategy

accessibility strategy

Your business needs a web accessibility strategy

Australia has laws and policies in place which cover web accessibility requirements. Understanding these requirements will mean you’re clear with what you have to follow when selling your products.

It’s no longer acceptable to create websites that aren’t inclusive. Websites designed to be inclusive follow principles of accessible design, and for many types of end user.

End users may have some form of disability. These disabilities can include difficulties using a mouse, keyboard or even seeing the screen. All of these challenges need to be considered when designing the user interface.

You’re being discriminatory when you ignore people with disabilities, and this does affect your business.

Web content accessibility guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is an internationally adopted best practice approach for website accessibility. WCAG 2.0 has three levels (A, AA, AAA) of guidelines and accompanying techniques.

When these techniques are followed web content is more usable for people with disabilities. Creating web content using these techniques will mean it is understood by screen readers, voice dictation software and other assistive technologies.

If you do not provide equal access to people with a disability you are breaking the law.

Disability Discrimination Act

Equal access to information for people with disabilities is required by the Disability Discrimination Act where it can be reasonably provided. This applies to any web content which is hosted on Australian web servers. If you do not provide equal access to people with a disability you are breaking the law.

The requirement covers all professional service businesses with an online presence. If you have a website which is public facing there is a risk of legal action if it is inaccessible to people with disabilities. It may be a small risk, but it’s a risk nonetheless.

Although a legal requirement exists to ensure there is no discrimination based upon a disability. there is no law enforcing disability standards in web content as the notes are advisory only.

It is globally accepted that WCAG 2.0 is the standard when making web content accessible. It is easy to claim ignorance and not to do anything, but ignorance of disability requirements is no excuse.

Following the web content accessibility guidelines will reduce the risk of a successful claim against the disability discrimination act. One of the most significant court cases about web content inaccessibility has been with Coles the supermarket.

Gisele Mesnage had signed up to order her groceries from the website of supermarket Coles believing ordering groceries online would be easier because of the difficulties she had been experiencing shopping in person.

Unfortunately, she experienced a number of problems with the website including complex navigation that meant it could take up to 8 hours to place an order.

Coles attempted to update their website to fix these problems, but the update repeated the same problems. Numerous requests to Coles to fix their website resulted in no action being taken and reluctantly Gisele took her complaint to the Australian Human Rights commission.

Attempts at reaching an agreement with Coles failed and she took the case to court.

“Taking this action is the last resort and it is a very big decision for me,” she said. “I know it is not going to be a walk in the park but it is important.

Coles to make online shopping site more accessible following disability discrimination case

Selling to Government

Government contracts can be very profitable and there is often the option of repeat business. If you intend to sell to the Australian Federal Government or be part of a procurement process, web accessibility is a mandatory requirement which you must understand.

You will have to prove how your products and services meet WCAG 2.0 conformance. Stating you are conformant to WCAG 2.0 is not enough. Failure to demonstrate web accessibility can exclude you from Government business.

… agencies should update ICT procurement processes, especially those relating to websites and web-based service delivery, to include specific web accessibility criteria, namely conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) Level AA

Accessibility for Web related ICT Procurements [PDF]

Making your products accessible need not be difficult, but it does need commitment. It isn’t something that can be thought about at the end of the development cycle. It needs constant assessing to ensure accessibility is being maintained and improved overtime.

The effort making your products accessible will benefit you. It will put you at an advantage in the government procurement process and reduce your risk of legal action. Web accessibility is no longer the nice to have, it’s a must for digital projects.

Ross Mullen

Ross Mullen

I'm director of CANAXESS, a web and digital accessibility company based in Australia. I help large companies, charities and emerging startups with web accessibility and inclusive design.

Canberra, Australia