Published: 02 Mar 2023
Navigating the World of Inclusivity: A Guide to UK Accessibility Standards
Last Updated: 11 Aug 2023
1. Importance of Digital Inclusivity for Businesses in the United Kingdom
2. Understanding the Equality Act 2010 and its Impact on Digital Accessibility
3. Definition of Disability
4. Duty of Reasonable Adjustment in the Digital Sphere
5. Public Sector Equality Duty and Digital Accessibility
6. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
7. Understanding the WCAG 2.1 Level Standards
8. Key Principles of Accessible Web Design
10. How Can TestingXperts (Tx) help?
Did you know that according to a recent survey, around 20% of the UK population has some form of disability? That’s approximately 12.9 million people who face barriers to accessing the internet and the digital world. As a result, websites must adhere to web accessibility standards to ensure that everyone, regardless of disability, has equal access to information and services online.
Web accessibility refers to the design and development of websites, applications, and technologies accessible to people with disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. In the United Kingdom, web accessibility standards are guided by the Equality Act 2010 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Importance of Digital Inclusivity for Businesses in the United Kingdom
Here are numerous benefits of being digitally inclusive, both for businesses and for society as a whole.
It’s high time for digital businesses to prioritise digital inclusivity for several reasons:
Legal Obligation: The Equality Act 2010 requires public sector organisations in the UK to make their websites and other electronic communications accessible to people with disabilities. Failure to do so can result in legal action and potential financial penalties.
Improved User Experience: By making their websites and digital products accessible to all users, businesses can improve the overall user experience for everyone, including those with disabilities. This can result in increased engagement, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.
Market Expansion: By catering to the needs of users with disabilities, businesses can expand their reach and tap into a previously untapped market segment.
Increased Innovation: Digital inclusivity can drive innovation by exposing businesses to new perspectives, ideas, and experiences. This can result in more innovative products and services that cater to the needs of a wider range of users.
Reputation and Brand Value: Companies that prioritise digital inclusivity demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, which can enhance their reputation and brand value.
Understanding the Equality Act 2010 and its Impact on Digital Accessibility
The Equality Act 2010 is a crucial piece of legislation that significantly impacts digital accessibility in the UK.It requires public sector organisations to make their websites and other digital communications accessible to people with disabilities and sets a clear accessibility standard for digital accessibility in the country.
The Equality Act 2010 is a crucial piece of legislation in the United Kingdom that sets out the legal rights of individuals with disabilities and protects them from discrimination in various areas of life, including the workplace and access to services. The act also includes provisions related to digital accessibility and requires government organisations to make their public sector websites and mobile applications accessible to people with disabilities.
The act states that a service provider must not treat a person with a disability less favorably than someone else and must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not put at a substantial disadvantage. This includes making their websites and digital products accessible to users with disabilities.
Definition of Disability
In the UK, disability is defined by the Equality Act 2010. According to the act, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
This definition covers a wide range of impairments, including, but not limited to, visual, hearing, or mobility impairments, chronic conditions such as diabetes, HIV, or multiple sclerosis, and conditions such as autism, dyslexia, and mental health. The definition also includes the effects of medication and treatment and the impact of disability-related equipment and support.
In line with the Equality Act 2010, which requires organisations to make reasonable adjustments to eliminate discrimination and provide equal access to services, facilities, and premises.
Duty of Reasonable Adjustment in the Digital Sphere
In the digital sphere, the duty of reasonable adjustment may include the following:
Providing alternative access methods:
Organisations may need to provide alternative access methods, such as keyboard navigation or audio description, to ensure that disabled people can use digital service and products effectively.
Designing for accessibility:
Organisations should develop their digital services and products to be accessible from the outset, considering the needs of disabled users. This includes using accessible design practices, such as large text, high contrast, and straightforward navigation, to ensure that digital content is accessible to users with visual or cognitive impairments.
Providing accessible content:
Organisations should ensure that digital content, including text, images, and videos, is accessible to disabled users. This may include providing alternative text for images, captions for videos, and audio descriptions for visual content.
Providing accessible technology:
Organisations should ensure that the technology used to deliver digital services and products is accessible. This may include ensuring that software is compatible with screen readers and that hardware such as smartphones and laptops are compatible with assistive technologies such as switches and alternative keyboards.
By meeting their duty of reasonable adjustment in the digital sphere, organisations can ensure that disabled people have equal access to digital services and products and can participate fully in digital life.
Public Sector Equality Duty and Digital Accessibility
The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) is a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 that requires public sector organizations in the UK to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between different groups, including disabled people. The PSED applies to all functions of public sector organizations, including the design and delivery of digital services and products.
In the context of digital accessibility, the PSED responsibility is to ensure that public sector bodies’ websites and mobile applications, and other digital services and products are accessible to disabled people and meet the needs of all users.. This includes ensuring that digital content is accessible and usable and that the technology used to deliver digital services and products is accessible.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 is a set of international guidelines for making web content accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG 2.1 was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international standards organization.
WCAG 2.1 provides guidelines and success criteria for making web content more accessible to users with disabilities, including those with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments. The policies cover various accessibility issues, including text and visual presentation, user interface, navigation, and multimedia.
Understanding the WCAG 2.1 Level Standards
WCAG 2.1 provides three levels of conformance to help organisations evaluate the accessibility of their web content: A, AA, and AAA. These levels provide a systematic way for organisations to assess the accessibility of their web content and determine the level of accessibility they aim to achieve.
It is the most basic level of conformance that ensures all the web content must meet accessibility requirements to be considered accessible.
WCAG 2.1 Level AA builds upon the requirements of Level A and adds additional accessibility requirements. It includes a more comprehensive set of accessibility requirements, such as providing alternative text for images and video captions.
Level AAA is the highest level of conformance and covers the most comprehensive accessibility requirements. It includes the most comprehensive set of accessibility requirements, such as providing audio descriptions for visual content and ensuring that content is compatible with a wide range of assistive technologies.
Organisations can choose the level of conformance they aim to achieve based on their resources, audience, and goals. However, it is essential to note that reaching the highest level of conformance (Level AAA) is not always necessary or practical for all organisations and that meeting the requirements of Level AA provides a good level of accessibility for most organisations.
By following the guidelines provided by WCAG 2.1, organisations can ensure that their web content is accessible to users with disabilities and meets their legal obligations under disability discrimination legislation.
Key Principles of Accessible Web Design
Accessible web design refers to designing websites and web applications that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities, including visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.The fundamental principles of accessible web design include the following:
A website’s information and user interface components must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust to users in ways they can perceive, whether through sight, sound, touch, or some other means.
User interface components and navigation must be operable, allowing users to interact with the website using a keyboard, mouse, or another input device
Information and the operation of user interface components must be legible, allowing users to comprehend and use the website effectively.
The website’s content must be powerful enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers, and other assistive technologies.
By following these principles, web designers can make a website accessible to users with disabilities, meet their legal obligations under disability discrimination legislation, and create a more inclusive web for everyone.
Implementing WCAG 2.1 in Practice
Implementing WCAG 2.1 in practice involves a combination of design, development, and testing processes. Here are some steps to help you get started:
Conduct an accessibility audit: Start by conducting an accessibility audit of your website or web application to identify potential barriers to accessibility. This can be done using automated tools, such as accessibility checkers, or manually testing the website using a keyboard and screen reader.
Define your level of conformance: Decide on the level of conformance you want to achieve, whether it is A, AA, or AAA. This will determine the specific WCAG 2.1 guidelines you need to follow.
Incorporate accessibility into your design and development process: Make accessibility a priority throughout the design and development process, incorporating it into your design patterns and development practices. This includes using semantic HTML, providing alternative text for images, and ensuring that your website is keyboard-accessible.
Test and validate: Regularly test your website or web application for accessibility using automated tools, manual testing, and user testing with differently-abled persons. This will help you identify any remaining barriers to accessibility and make any necessary adjustments.
Provide accessibility training: Provide accessibility training for your design and development teams so that everyone knows the importance of accessibility and how to implement WCAG 2.1 in practice.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your website or web application meets the requirements of WCAG 2.1 and is accessible to users with disabilities. Implementing WCAG 2.1 in practice can be a complex process, but it is essential for ensuring an inclusive and accessible web for everyone.
In conclusion, accessibility standards play a crucial role in ensuring that digital content and services are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to make the web accessible, through implementing laws such as the Equality Act 2010 and guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
The ongoing efforts by organisations, government agencies, and accessibility experts in the UK to promote digital accessibility are commendable and are vital to creating a more inclusive and accessible digital world for everyone By embracing these standards and making accessibility a core part of their digital strategy, organisations can meet their legal obligations and enhance the user experience for all, making the digital world a more accessible and equitable place for everyone.
How Can TestingXperts (Tx) help?
At TestingXperts (Tx), we believe in a world that is fair to everyone and offers a comprehensive range of accessibility testing regulations like W3Cs, i.e., WCAG 2.0, WCAG 2.1 (Level A: 30, Level AA: 20, Level AAA: 28). accessibility practices are well followed within the software.
• Tx makes sure all business-critical applications are accessible to everyone by aligning them with the current accessibility standards like W3C’s, i.e., WCAG 2.0/WCAG 2.1., 301, 549 and section 508.
• Highly skilled Tx includes differently-abled experts who perform accessibility testing of applications.
• Exposure to industry-leading open-source and commercial accessibility testing tools.
• Experience working with all industry-leading professionals for accessibility testing.
• Tx delivers a report in the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) to the stakeholders to make informed decisions.