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Impact - A Blog by INM

What is Accessibility and why you should be
aware of it

November 9, 2016 by Suzanne Fondacaro
What is accessibility and why you should be aware of it

Almost everyone is disabled…or will be at some point.

If you are wondering if Accessibility  for the web is really that important, the answer is Yes. And, it will continue to become even more so in the coming years. Accessibility refers to the ability for everyone, regardless of disability (sight, auditory, motor and cognitive) or special needs, to access, use and benefit from everything within their environment, whether it be physical or digital.  

Ensuring that accessibility requirements are met ensures corporate and social responsibility, has positive consequences on other areas of your digital strategy, such as better SEO, higher page rankings and better usability, and reduces legal action.

Accessibility is often abbreviated as A11y because there are 11 letters between the leading A and the trailing y, and it’s obviously much shorter to write. It is sometimes pronounced “Alli”, though most of the time “A11y” is just read as “Accessibility”.

What you need to know

Various regulations affect public and private organizations in the USA, in Canada and in most Western countries. They are all somehow related to WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), the standards laid out by the W3C.

More specifically, in Canada:

AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act)

The AODA came into effect in June 2005 and applies to private or non-profit organization with more than 50 employees and organizations in the public sector.

The gist:

  • Beginning January 1, 2014: new public websites, significantly refreshed websites and any web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet (WCAG) 2.0 standards.
  • Beginning January 1, 2021: all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA other than criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions)
  • You don’t have to make your internal website (intranet) accessible.
  • Content posted before 2012 does not need to be modified

QC SGQRI-008 (Standards sur l’accessibilité web)

This QC SGQRI-008 came into effect May 2011 and concerns public websites, intranets and extranets and documents downloaded through a website. It’s broadly based on WCAG 2.0 requirements. Not much has updated on the Accessibility front since the election of the current Liberal government, but one can expect that a regulation similar to the AODA will be introduced some time in the future.

Challenges related to A11y Compliance

In our opinion, challenges with A11y come in two categories: technology-related and practice-related.

Technology related challenges can further be split into:

  • A solid digital ecosystem that can support WCAG 2.0.
  • A template system, components and other configurations that allow the proper input of accessible content, or better yet, that enforces minimal requirements but in a gentle and flexible way. E.g., one option is to force users to enter all the required A11y features for every new piece of content they create. A better system allows authors to multitask on various pieces of content and only later complete the A11y requirements.  

Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) along with INM AEM Foundation address both challenges very elegantly.

Practice-related challenges:

  • Accessible wireframes and page models must be designed to comply with all requirements. They include the proper color contrasts, menu placements, tabbing order, etc.
  • Accessible content: regardless of how smart the underlying technology, any new content added or modified in your website must feature attributes that make them “readable” to people with disabilities, via devices such as screen readers, for example.

Designing proper wireframes and page models requires solid skills and experience. The good news is that most of the efforts are needed at the initial design of your pages. Little recurring intervention is required.  

However, content production is something you do frequently and thus, the above challenges, any improvement to content production process represents a significant gain.

How INM can help

INM has developed a tool to help guide authors in producing the most accessible content in the fastest and most reliable way, directly from their authoring environments. Find out more

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