Websites have become indispensable tools for information, communication, and interaction. However, not all users navigate the web with ease. Some face barriers due to disabilities, limited technological proficiency, or other challenges. This is where website accessibility comes into play, ensuring that websites are usable and understandable by all users.
Understanding Website Accessibility
Website accessibility refers to the practice of designing and developing websites in a way that accommodates a wide range of users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This involves making websites perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, which are the core principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presented in ways that users can perceive. This means using alternative text for images, providing captions for multimedia content, and ensuring text is distinguishable from the background.
Operable: Websites must be operable by users, meaning they should be navigable using various input methods such as keyboards, mice, or assistive technologies like screen readers. Keyboard navigation, logical focus order, and skip navigation links are some examples of operability features.
Understandable: Users, especially those with basic digital skills, should be able to understand and use the content and interface of a website. Clear and concise language, consistent navigation, and error prevention mechanisms contribute to this aspect of accessibility.
Robust: Websites should be robust enough to work reliably with current and future technologies, including assistive technologies. This involves using standard code and ensuring compatibility across different browsers and devices.
The Importance of Website Accessibility for Basic Users
Inclusivity: By removing barriers to access, websites become more inclusive, allowing a broader audience to engage with Stevens.
Legal Compliance: Many states and countries have implemented laws and regulations that mandate website accessibility. Ensuring accessibility not only broadens the user experience, but also helps the university avoid legal repercussions.
Enhanced User Experience: Accessibility features, such as clear and consistent navigation, benefit all users. Users find it easier to navigate and understand content on accessible websites, which enhances their overall user experience.
SEO Benefits: Search engines favor accessible websites because they prioritize user experience. Implementing accessibility features can improve the university's search engine rankings, making it more discoverable to users searching for information.
Positive Brand Image: Organizations that prioritize accessibility demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility. This can enhance our brand image and reputation.
Future-Proofing: As technology evolves, websites that adhere to accessibility standards are more likely to remain functional and relevant. Users who may not adapt quickly to new technologies can continue to access and benefit from these websites.
Website accessibility is not just a legal requirement or an ethical consideration; it's a fundamental aspect of creating an inclusive digital landscape. By prioritizing accessibility, we bridge the digital divide and ensure that the internet remains a tool for all, regardless of ability or digital proficiency.
At Stevens, we use an accessibility monitoring system called Siteimprove. This tool plays a pivotal role in monitoring and maintaining the accessibility of our websites. Siteimprove not only helps us identify and address potential accessibility issues but also offers valuable training resources to educate our web development teams and content creators through Frontier. This training is required for every website editor.
For more information, please email [email protected].