What is Web Accessibility and Why Is It Important?


Nowadays, everyone is talking about accessibility, in the real world, but also on the virtual one. But what does it mean to be accessible, and why does your website need to be accessible to all to protect your business?

What does “web accessibility” mean?

Accessibility definition

According to the US department of education, “Accessible” means that a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use”.

It’s the practice of making things accessible to all people, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This means that everything from websites to buildings to products should be designed in a way that is accessible to as many people as possible.

Accessibility directives and laws

Social inclusion is the key word. In a world changing, evolving all the time, it was important to write those principles down. And because the internet world has no limit, it is important to be aware of those legislations are now all around the world. Because Invicta Marketing has interest both in the US and in Europe, let’s see what happens there.

In the United States

July 26, 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, this landmark civil rights legislation increases access and opportunity for people with disabilities across community life, including employment.  By ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to work, the ADA is an affirmation of our nation’s founding ideals and a cornerstone of our efforts to ensure a fully inclusive American workforce and economy. 

In 2018, the section 508, about websites accessibility, was added. While Section 508 refers mainly to government agencies, the ADA covers the following sectors:

• State and local government agencies

• Private employers with 15 or more employees

• Businesses that operate for the benefit of the public

Because, websites are increasingly being defined as places of public accommodation by the courts, this concerns all companies with a website and nowadays, big companies but also small businesses have a website. It is also the owner of the company, and therefore of the site, to ensure that it is in compliance with the law with an accessible website. It is necessary to be well informed, or to address to professionals, like web developers and marketing agencies like Invicta Marketing, that will create a compliant website for you.

In the European Union

The Directive on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications also known as Directive(EU) 2016/2102 was adopted by the EU in 2016.  This Directive applies to public sector organizations of Member state of the European Union. The goal was to ensure that all public sector organizations were accessible for the 80 million people with disabilities in the EU.

The EU’s new European Accessibility Act (2019) complements the Web Accessibility Directive and applies to the private sector and public sector websites , thus impacting a much larger number of people.

Accessibility guidelines and tools

Of course, you’re not expected to figure out how all this may apply to a website on your own. Clear guidelines exist on making your website accessible to people with a variety of conditions and impairments. There are also tools available to help you become compliant. Let’s take a look!

Guidelines for accessible websites


The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. Your website must be accessible to people with disabilities who browse the web. Inaccessible websites will have to be modified.

The CDC defines a disability as any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).

But how can you implement accessibility?

Accessibility guidelines

This definition is nonspecific, and make the terms of the law also very broad and quite difficult to understand. Guidelines and tutorials that describe accessibility solutions have therefore been made available to help company owners or digital marketing companies to understand more precisely what is expected of them.

 Guidelines can be found directly on the official web accessibility guidelines website or on other official websites, like university websites, which are often easier to read because they are intended for the general public rather than for seasoned experts. These guidelines will help in the web development process by listing the accessibility requirements and giving hints to find accessibility solutions.

4 essential components

The accessibility guidelines outline 4 essential components that need to be followed.

You can summarize them with the acronym POUR, which stands for perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.


This means that a page, a visual content, must be easy to read for everyone (accessible content). The web page needs to have an accessible design too : you don’t want to have too many different fonts, colors, textures (think of color blind people). The text must be distinguishable, or if not because of the design, it also can read for instance. If there is a picture, you can add a caption to describe it.


This principle states that the “user interface components and navigation must be operable.” This principle ensures that a user will be able to navigate a website easily without having problems related to limited functionality or time limits.

Your website must be easy to navigate with a keyboard. If all functionalities are available with the keyboard, that means that it can be used with alternative keyboards (assistive devices).

You also have to give the users enough time to read the information on your website. The web content accessibility guidelines recommend to warn the user before time expires and give at least 20 seconds to extend the time limit with a simple action (for example, “press the space bar”), and the user is allowed to extend the time limit at least ten times.

You also have to think about people at risk of a seizure; for instance, the user must be able to stop your motion animations.


The user must understand clearly your website. It has to be readable, predictable and have an input assistance.

Readable means that the same language is used in the website. If the language changes, the reason should be explained, or a translation should be given. Don’t put too many acronyms or abbreviations; if you do put some, give their definitions.

Predictable means that web pages appear and operate in predictable ways. For instance, a functionality will remain the same when the user changes to another page.

 An input assistance helps users avoid and correct typos. If the user makes an input error, the error is detected and identified by the system and the user will be able to correct it.


Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technology. For example, if you use the HTML language to develop your website, you have to make sure that it’s a language that assistive devices can read (audio information).

Evaluation tools

Site check tools

You can read the guidelines to the point you know them by heart, or you can invest in a tool to check your site for you.

There are a broad range of prices and level of services. You can also find free tools designed by universities like WAVE, created by Utah State University.

If you want to use a tool checker, you just have to write the web address of the website you want to check, and you will have a description of what’s compliant and what needs more work.

For example, it is going to assess the colors of your website to check whether you have enough contrast between text and backgrounds. It will tell you about the structures of your website and if it is readable. It is going to study your ARIA Accessible Rich Internet Applications. The Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. It especially helps with dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with HTML, JavaScript, and related technologies.

For example, WAI-ARIA supports two types of checkbox widgets:

  1. Dual-state: The most common type of checkbox, it allows the user to toggle between two choices — checked and not checked.
  2. Tri-state: This type of checkbox supports an additional third state known as partially checked.

Tool bar

You can also add a Web Accessibility Toolbar (WAT). It adds a toolbar to Internet Explorer to aid manual inspection of accessibility related elements on web pages. It is developed by the Web Accessibility Tools Consortium and you can find it on the homeland security website.

Digital marketing agency

You tried to read the guidelines, to follow the advice of the site scan tools, but you’ve realized that it’s too complicated, and it makes you want to throw yourself under a bus? Don’t panic! Just ask your digital marketing company to make your website compliant with the web accessibility rules. It will give you peace of mind (you respect the law) and popularity with a good brand image, because not every site is yet compliant.

By making websites accessible for everyone, we are improving the overall quality of the internet.

Mobile apps

What does the law say?

The answer to this question is a little more nuanced than a simple yes or no. In general, mobile apps need to be compliant with ADA Title III and Sect 504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, but the specific compliance requirements may vary depending on the nature of the app.

For example, commercial businesses that create mobile apps must make sure that their apps are ADA compliant. This means that the apps must be accessible to people with disabilities, including those who are blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, or have mobility impairments.

However, mobile apps created by governments, municipalities, and federally funded schools and organizations may fall under a different set of compliance requirements. These apps may be subject to ADA Title II, which prohibits discrimination based on ability. This means that the app must be accessible to everyone, regardless of their disability status.

Mobile devices & accessibility problems

In recent years, major brands have faced lawsuits for alleged ADA violations related to their mobile content. One of the most high-profile examples was Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC. In that case, a person with vision disabilities alleged that Domino’s Pizza app and mobile website were not accessible with a screen reader.

The pizza chain contended that since the Department of Justice has not issued formalized digital accessibility regulations, the lawsuit violated the company’s due process rights. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the ADA remains applicable.

Since then, mobile app developers have been on high alert for potential ADA compliance issues. In particular, they must ensure that their apps can be used by people with a wide range of disabilities, including vision, hearing, and mobility impairments.

Failure to do so can result in costly litigation. In October 2018, for example, the retailer Target agreed to pay $6 million to settle a lawsuit over its mobile app’s lack of accessibility.

So far, most ADA mobile app lawsuits have targeted large brands. But it’s only a matter of time before smaller developers are targeted as well. In order to avoid potential litigation, all mobile app developers should ensure their apps are ADA compliant.

To sum it up…

Everyone must have equal access to information and content, regardless of their abilities. Not only is it a legal requirement and safeguard for your business, but it’s the right way to do business in today’s world. And making your website accessible will have a positive effect on your SEO (search engine optimization). Let’s kill 2 birds with one stone by ensuring your web accessibility today!

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