In ContentSEOGoogle

This month saw the deadline for all public sector websites published before 23 September 2018 to comply with the latest WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines.  Websites published after 23rd September 2018 should have been compliant by 23rd September 2019 and should also include an accessibility statement.  Apps also need to comply with the new regulations by 23rd June 2021.

As public sector organisations, DMOs have a legal duty to make sure that their websites and apps meet accessibility requirements but the benefits to be gained make it a worthwhile exercise. If your site doesn’t meet the required standard you’re potentially missing out on a large segment of the population.

In the UK for example, there are more than 13.9 million people classified as disabled ie. at least 1 in 5 people have a long-term illness, impairment or disability and many more have a temporary disability.  This includes people with impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, deafness and impaired hearing.  You need to make sure that the design and content on your destination sites doesn’t exclude these people and that most people can use it without having to adapt it, while supporting those who do. 

What is WCAG 2.1?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (known as WCAG 2.1) are an internationally recognised set of recommendations for improving web accessibility which have been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  They explain how to make digital services, web sites and apps accessible to everyone including users with impairments to their vision, hearing, mobility and thinking and understanding (eg. people with dyslexia, autism or learning difficulties).  

What are the benefits of having an accessible website?

  • Audience reach - disabled people make up a significant portion of the population and their spending power (known as the purple pound) was worth £249 billion to the UK economy in 2019
  • Visibility & SEO – Google’s emphasis on accessibility has increased in recent years and that impacts on how it ranks websites.  For example, by adding image ALT text, transcripts for videos and accessible navigation, your site will perform better in search engine results.
  • Brand equity – having an accessible site helps to improve the perception and image of your brand and in turn can deliver competitive edge.  Disabled people are more likely to visit your destination if they’ve had a positive experience during the research phase of their journey and may even become brand advocates, marketing your destination for you.  
  • Improved usability – Although the focus for accessibility is mainly for people with disabilities, there are also benefits for older people and mobile device users.

How can you make your site accessible?

We recognise that now more than ever, budgets are tight and therefore the ability to make changes at this time could be a challenge for some DMOs. The good news is that there are some improvements relating to your site’s content which our DMOs can implement themselves via the DMS or CMS.  Here’s a few examples:

  • Add alt-text to images – this applies to images uploaded to DMS product records, the CMS media library and any embedded via the CMS content editor
  • Make sure that for images with text embedded in the file, the text is readable and there is alt-text behind the image so the user knows exactly what the image is displaying
  • Nav link descriptions – when editing pages in the CMS there is a field called Nav Link Description so it is important to complete this field for all pages of your website

There are also some additional improvements in terms of development and functionality which Simpleview can implement for you:

  • AudioEye Toolbar – provides a set of web personalisation tools which allow the visitor to customise their user experience to meet their own individual needs.
  • Navigation using the keyboard – navigating through a website with a keyboard uses the TAB key to move around the ‘focusable elements’ such as weblinks, input fields and buttons. We can update the underlying code of your site so that it offers clear visual clues as to what part of the page the TAB has currently selected, improve the order in which the TAB flows and allow screen readers to assist disabled visitors.
  • Colour contrast and alt text on site graphics – a significant number of people (around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women) have some degree of colour or vision deficiency so if your site has poor colour contrast you can either install the AudioEye Toolbar to allow the visitor to change the colour contrast themselves or we can change the underlying colours in the site’s design to improve the contrast following consultation with the client, as well as updating the alt-text behind the site’s graphics.

In addition to making the suggested improvements, DMOs also have a legal obligation to publish an accessibility statement which specifies whether their site is fully or partially complaint with accessibility standards and, if not, how you are working towards achieving it. More information on the contents can be found on the UK Government site.

So to summarise, organisations that embrace accessibility feature higher in search engine results, reduce their legal risk, demonstrate their corporate social responsibility (CSR), and increase their customer loyalty.

Your Account Manager can provide more information on all of the above improvements, together with costs (where applicable) so please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.  You can also visit www.gov.uk for further details.

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