Website Accessibility & Standards

Website Accessibility & Standards
5th March 0200
written by James Purves

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What are web standards ?

Web Standards are the guidelines and recommendations on how a website should be coded in various languages including html, css and xml. The standards are in place to make website more accessible and usable to it’s visitors.

That’s fine, but why should I bother?

Here are few of the good reasons why it’s always best to comply with Web Standards:

By using structural content in your web pages search engines can rank and index you page more effectively.

If your website is coded to Web Standards older browsers will still be able to display your content making it fully accessible even to those with out dated systems.

Your website will be available to the world’s online browsing audience. This includes disabled users who have voice browsers, braille browsers and hand held monitors will small screen sizes. Everyone. You may be surprised just how many people there are with eyesight difficulties who require website that can display information in larger text sizes.

What is an accessible website ?

An accessible website is one which has been designed and developed to offer total accessibility to all viewers, taking into account the platform they are using to view the website and also any disabilities they may have. Ensuring your website is accessible will expose it to the largest viewing audience possible.

Why should I have an accessible website?

There are many reasons to ensure your website is classed as accessible. The first being that if your website is accessible you will reach a far greater segment of the population and be able to introduce them to your services and products.

There is also now a legal requirement in the UK for you to provide an accessible website to your viewers. The DDA (disability discrimination act) requires you to make your website viewable and accessible to the public and to take steps to ensure that it is not unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to make use of the site.

What is the DDA?

The DDA (disability discrimination act) is a uk parliamentary act published by the Disability Rights Commission in 1995 which makes it illegal to discriminate against people who are disabled. A Code of Practice was published in 2002 which makes direct references to online services and websites.

What happens if my website is not accessible?

It is possible legal action could be taken against you. There was a case made against the Sydney Olympics Committee, where a blind man was able to make claim against them due to their website being inaccessible. More likely is that you will find visitors to your site will not be able to access the information you want them to see, and will go elsewhere to a website which has been developed to cater for different visitors needs. In the next few years the number of different platforms for website viewing will dramatically increase and it is best to make sure your website is future proofed now in anticipation for this.

Are there any other benefits?

Yes there are lots. Here is a brief list:

Fast loading times – an accessible website uses optimised coding techniques which keep the file size of each page small. This will ensure your website downloads quickly so that visitors do not give up on it before it’s even loaded!

Search Engine Optimised – Search engine likes accessible websites, and because each page is stripped of unnecessary code, you page is leaner and the useful content has far greater percentage of the total page size which means better rankings.

Flexible visual styles – Most accessible website relay on something called stylesheets to add visual design to a webpage. Once a basic webpage has been created, revamping the design and layout is much quicker, and achieved just by changing the stylesheet. You can even have a choice of designs for your site by switching stylesheets!

the future – the web has changed hugely in the last few years, and it’s showing no sign of slowing. New platforms such as web tv, mobile phone internet and pda’s will be internet accessible by default, and by making sure your website is in line with current standards and codes of practice will make your site viewable form the outset.

Is my website accessible?

You can run a check on any website using the w3c website validation tool. Simply enter a website address into the form below and click check.