Web Accessibility Standards: Practical Politics

May 17th, 2013 in Design, Search Engine Optimisation, Web accessibility Design eu standards w3c Web

They say you should never talk politics if you want to avoid an argument, so it might be worth skating over this week’s ding-dong in Parliament about the European Union, and whether it’s worth the UK being part of it. There are plenty of arguments on either side, and very few of them have to do with marketing your business online.

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This is a blog about just that, of course, and yet that’s precisely why we mention Europe: the EU, believe it or not, has quite a bit to do with how you might market your business online. This isn’t just about the headline-grabbing stuff about privacy laws, Google and Apple; like it or loathe it, the EU also promotes something uncomplicated which is very good indeed for your business, and for Google’s.

At Image+, we design our websites with what are known as ‘web accessibility standards’ very much in mind. These are a numbers of rules, guidelines and design criteria which aim to ensure your website is as viewable to as many different people as possible. Devised and promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), accessibility standards are important for the same reason that responsive web design is important: they make your website more flexible.

There are all sorts of reasons someone may have difficulty enjoying your website to the full: they may be partially sighted or hard of hearing, have a physical disability or learning difficulties. They may be elderly or in a rural location. The key is that W3C accessibility guidelines offer a powerful way of designing websites in such a way that they reach as many people as possible. This may be achieved by offering for alternative text for images, in case on slow connections they do not load; it might be providing transcripts of audio, or offering a website which can function without use of the mouse. Accessibility is about imagining the full range of your audience and catering for them.

This not only fulfills your business’s social responsibility – it brings your products to more people. That’s why we routinely design websites which tick all the accessibility boxes. There are many designers who take short cuts or simply don’t have the knowledge necessary to ensure their websites are fully compliant with W3C standards. Your website will be the poorer for using them.

To risk getting involved in that spat in the Commons, the EU are fully signed up to W3C and promote it strongly – indeed, sometimes it’s not strong enough for them! In that as in so many things, the EU is a complicated beast which occassions fierce debate … unlike web standards, which are a no-brainer. Ask about incorporating them into your website today.