Currently, technology has become an essential tool for the development of various daily activities, both in personal and professional fields. However, despite the fact that access to technology has become increasingly common, there is still a gap in digital accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, and other groups.
Digital accessibility refers to the ability of individuals to access and use digital products, services, and content, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. In this sense, digital accessibility is not only a fundamental human right, but it is also essential to achieve a just and inclusive society. This note explores the importance of digital accessibility and ways in which it can be improved to ensure a more egalitarian society.
Why is digital accessibility important?
At this point, we need to talk about the role of accessibility in social inclusion and equitable access to opportunities. The concept itself defends people's right to access information regardless of their abilities or socio-demographic characteristics.
Companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their products or services can be used by as many people as possible. At this point, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the fundamental rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities to participate in autonomy and independence. To achieve this, access to information and communications, among others, needs to be ensured.
It is no coincidence that accessibility also intersects with other good development practices such as search engine optimization (SEO), mobile web design, usability, or multimodal interaction. If accessibility measures are implemented correctly, an accessible digital product will be better indexed by search engines, will have reduced maintenance costs, and, of course, will reach a larger audience.
In addition, it is worth noting that in some countries, there are minimum accessibility requirements at the governmental level stipulated by law. Its tangible and intangible benefits make it a fundamental element in any digital project that aims to achieve its reach objectives.
Accessibility standards: what are they, and what do they consist of?
Before we continue, it is necessary to stop at the fundamentals that govern digital accessibility practices or implementations. This way, your team can be guided by the same roadmap during the design and implementation process.
We will be based on the four pillars described by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in its document "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" (WCAG): even though they are aimed at websites, the underlying philosophy serves as a basis for any digital experience. Version 2.1 is available in English for review, although you can also base your work on the official Spanish translation of version 2.0.
Within the four principles that govern digital accessibility, we find:
Perception: information and experience are presented in formats or ways that all users can process.
Operable: the user interface and its components can be navigated by anyone.
Understandable: the elements of a system have a configuration or language that is easy to understand for everyone.
Robust: the content or product must be compatible with any type of technology or person.
Each principle has guidelines that define basic objectives, offering a concrete framework for work. Likewise, the W3C also presents success criteria with levels of conformity A, AA, and AAA, ranging from the lowest level of compliance to the most complete:
Level A: your digital project meets the basic accessibility criteria or provides an alternative version that complies.
Level AA: your digital project meets both the level A and AA success criteria, or you have an alternative version that complies with level AA.
Level AAA: your digital project fully complies with levels A, AA, and AAA, or provides an alternative version that complies with level AAA.
If you want to create a more accessible product or service to the public, you already have clear indicators that you can provide to your team to align their work.
In summary, digital accessibility is a fundamental aspect to ensure a fair and inclusive society. Not only is it a fundamental human right, but it is also essential for equitable access to opportunities and social inclusion. Companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their products or services can be used by as many people as possible. In addition, the implementation of accessibility measures will not only improve the user experience but can also improve SEO and reduce maintenance costs. The four pillars of digital accessibility, defined by the W3C, are perception, operability, understandability, and robustness, and each has guidelines and success criteria ranging from the basic compliance level to the most complete level. In conclusion, digital accessibility is not only an ethical and legal obligation but also an opportunity for innovation and creativity.