You’ve probably already heard about accessibility in other contexts, but what exactly is digital acessibility?
In the Nordic countries, we value equality, and accessibility is high on our national agendas: having an accessible society is important to us. We believe that everyone should be able to fully participate in Nordic society, no matter their individual needs or requirements.
But how do we apply this same accessible ideal to the digital world? And how does pursuing digital accessibility ultimately benefit us all?
Digital accessibility –making web environments accessible for all
It has been estimated that there are a million people in Finland who are left outside of the digital world because of accessibility issues. As mentioned above, accessibility considerations are important when it comes to people being able to live full lives. For example, when planning new buildings, it is necessary by law to consider accessibility issues; back in 1973 Finland introduced legislation requiring architects and constructors to consider disabilities when building. In recent years, digital accessibility has become an increasingly important topic as more of our society moves online Just like in the offline world, we need to consider how everyone can get fair access to society’s resources.
A website or mobile application is accessible when:
- It is designed and constructed with a user-oriented approach
- Its content is accessible to all – including people with special needs
- Its technical execution is functional and well-executed
- It is easy to use
- All the content provided is easily understandable.
When you start planning or improving your website from an accessibility viewpoint, the angle of attack will vary based on who is in your target group. People have different needs. However, it is always advisable to build your website so that it is accessible to as many people as possible.
You can reach this goal by using methods such as:
- favouring a larger font size
- improving the contrast between text elements
- adding alt-texts to pictures
- using clear and simple language and adding subtitles to your videos.
The web is full of tips and instructions about how to improve your sites or application’s accessibility rating. A good resources is the Introduction to Web Accessibilty from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
Accessibility directive in Finland
At the end of 2019, a new directive regarding digital accessibility came into effect in Finland. Thanks to the directive, the public sector (including some private organisations and businesses) are required to meet specific digital accessibility requirements. The directive is based on a directive legislated by EU in 2016, that aims to:
- “Advance the possibilities of all to function as equals in a digital society
- Create equal, minimum accessibility standards of for public sector websites and mobile applications across all EU states.
- Improve the quality of digital services
- To improve the accessibility of webservices in the EU market.”
Source: Finnish Ministry of Finance
The EU directive is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines also known as WCAG standard.
What are the benefits of optimising your website from an accessibility angle?
Although for some digital accessibility is a legal necessity, we could all benefit from making the internet more accessible.
Following basic digital accessibility standards is useful as it:
- Increases your visibility in search engines
- Allows more visitors to successfully access your site and its content
- Helps all users better understand the content of your website (not just experts and specialists)
- Improves your overall user experience
- Makes it easier and quicker to use your website
- Is the best way of designing digital services and products.
A website that is accessibly designed is easier to use – even if you don’t have any specific special needs. In addition, digital accessibility is an important elements when it comes to satisfying users and customers and creating a good environment for SEO work.
Following accessibility standards helps search engines access and better understand your website’s underlying technical framework and access relevant content faster. Accessibility is a way to get ahead in search results, but it’s also the right thing to do when it comes to creating a better user and customer experience.