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Web Accessibility: a Reflection of Social Inclusiveness

Wednesday 03 of February, 2021.
Reading Time: 3 minutes.
By Juan Carlos Porras Quirós



You receive a notification on your cell phone. It’s a work email, so you tap on the notification’s banner and start reading. Later, you have a few minutes between meetings, so you go on Facebook or Twitter to catch up with the latest news. You scroll down, see a few posts but don’t come across anything interesting; finally, you connect to your meeting. 

Email and social media are only two examples of how technology represents a basic and daily foundation of many people’s lives. But even when it is something so representative and transcendental in our everyday lives, the operability of these systems is something we take for granted. When seeing a notification on our cell phone, we tap and start consuming information. It’s possible we have not even considered what would happen if we received a notification but were unable to tap on our phone screen due to a physical disability. How would we comprehend the pictures of a post if we were visually impaired? How could we enjoy our favorite podcast if we had a hearing disability?

This exclusion is the daily reality of all those who have a disability: from visual or hearing to physical or cognitive impairments. These special needs can limit their access to information and, in some cases, this could be considered discrimination. It’s necessary for technology to respond, adapt, and provide the required tools that eliminate any gaps in access to information. Web accessibility represents the access component to digital content for everyone, with special attention and care for people with impairments. 

At a global level, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are used as a standard; these include criteria that guarantee a minimum level of accessibility. They are specified by the World Wide Web Consortium, an international association that generates recommendations and standards that guarantee the growth of the Internet in the long term. The WCAG stipulates multiple requirements, requests, and minimal points that technologies must implement to ensure that the generated digital content is completely accessible for people with disabilities. 

The inclusion of subtitles, using certain color palettes, or choosing a bigger font size, are just a few basic examples specified by these accessibility guidelines. Software products should not force the user to use a mouse or keyboard to perform an action. How the user will consume the content that is generated needs to be considered in order to guarantee that the content is perceptible and readable. Technology provides multiple tools - such as screen readers that transform text into a ‘hearable read’ - but the hardware should be accompanied by an accessible product at the software level. 

Although there are several specializations, vast fields of knowledge, and different ways to guarantee accessibility, the root of all inclusivity processes tends to be the same: awareness. It’s necessary to understand that, due to a disability, there are people for whom access to information is limited. Additionally, it’s essential to understand the responsibility of ensuring the complete accessibility of all digital content. This is not only an obligation at a business or industry level, but it also implies an ethical and moral weight for the inclusion of every person in the digital world.

 

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  1. The special needs of people with disabilities can limit their access to information and, in some cases, this can be considered discrimination. 
  2. Globally, the WCAG (specified by the World Wide Web Consortium) are used as a standard and include criteria that guarantee a minimum level of accessibility.
  3. Ensuring access to digital content is a responsibility and an obligation at a business or industry level, and also an ethical and moral duty to maintain inclusivity.

 

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