Digital Accessibility caught the public eye after food giant Domino's lost a 5-year long court case over their app being deemed inaccessible to users with additional visual requirements.
"Domino’s Pizza was sued by a blind customer who was unable to order a pizza on Domino’s website, even while using the screen reading software that normally help blind people access information and services online." - Source
The court case highlighted the ever-increasing emphasis on accessibility standards and requirements for digital users, and businesses began implementing basic accessibility tools onto their websites and apps. This, in turn, pathed the way for Accessibility Testing, which could identify any areas in which accessibility features were needed through both automated and manual testing.
Within the UK, accessibility rules were set in motion during 2018, giving businesses a maximum of 2 years to improve their digital accessibility in accordance with the WCAG guidelines by September 2020. For mobile apps an additional year was added to the deadline, giving companies until June 2021 to update their accessibility features. These features include high-contrast options, screen reader compatibility and keyboard navigation just to name a few.
What is an accessibility statement?
According to the UK accessibility guidelines (WCAG), an accessibility statement will outline the level of accessibility on a site and areas in which accessibility is lacking. This is an important document for both businesses and users as it identifies areas of improvement, managing the expectations of both parties.
An accessibility statement needs to be:
- Easily readable with simplistic language that can be understood by users with cognitive requirements
- Provide contact details for customers to use when making an accessibility-focused complaint
- Highlight areas in which alternative content can be accessed
The statement must be published as a basic HTML page on a website and easily locatable on every page. Because of these requirements, most companies choose to include their statement in the footer of every page.
Examples of accessibility statements
Depending upon the industry, accessibility statements can have content variations. However, there is a clear level of continuity across the board when writing an accessibility statement.
The UK government accessibility guidelines encourages businesses to open their accessibility statement through an acknowledgement of their accessible users, using the following statement as an example:
"This website is run by [...]. We want as many people as possible to be able to use this website." - source
Clothing wear brand Topshop followed these guidelines and open their statement with:
"Topshop recognises the importance of providing a website that is accessible to all user groups, including the disabled, the visually impaired and those with motor deficiencies and cognitive disabilities." - source
The next step is to outline the exact guidelines your website should match, including a link to the official guidelines page. In this instance, the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) are referenced. You also need to ensure you mention technical variations, such as browser and device combinations in which your site is compatible on.
The penultimate section of your accessibility statement needs to document areas in which accessibility is lacking while providing a roadmap for future development. This section is important as it can save you from a potentially damaging lawsuit. Showing a level of recognition for these inaccessible features and a rough plan outlining areas of development, manages your customer's expectations while reinforcing a level of trusting communication between you and your target audience.
Finally, your accessibility statement must finish with contact details for customers to use when seeking out more information or when making a complaint.
Having an accessibility statement is one step in the accessibility ladder that needs to be climbed. Encouraging your internal teams in each department to appreciate and be a part of the process will produce a baseline level of understanding, that will transcend developmental communication across your website.
Remember that each functionality added to a website needs to match accessibility specifications, tested through a third party system that uses both automated and manual testing processes.