Web accessibility is about inclusion — making sure everyone, including disabled people and those using assistive technologies, can access online information and services.
Anyone — particularly in government — who delivers a service to the public has a responsibility to make sure information can be accessed by everyone.
Online content must be accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to disabled people. It’s a human right.
- Why: The case for web accessibility — World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
- Article 9. Accessibility — United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The New Zealand Web Accessibility Standard 1.1
All public service and non-public service agencies must meet the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard 1.1.
This Standard is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, the international standard for web accessibility.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
WCAG 2.1 sets out requirements, known as 'success criteria', for making web content more accessible.
There are nearly 50 individual success criteria that must be met in order to meet WCAG 2.1. These are grouped under 4 principles:
- Perceivable — information and user interface must be presented in ways that users can perceive.
- Operable — functionality must be available to all users, for example through a keyboard.
- Understandable — make content readable and understandable.
- Robust — content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide variety of users and assistive technologies.
The benefits of accessible websites include:
- people can access information and services
- people can better participate in society
- accessible websites are easier to use
- they not only help people with disabilities but also help older people and people from different cultures
- agencies can reach a significantly larger portion of New Zealanders
- accessible sites are easier for search engines to crawl
- cost-savings can be made by building an accessible website from the beginning rather than fixing issues after development.
How to create accessible content
It's easiest and cheapest to think about accessibility at the start of a project. If you work as a content person, designer or developer you should think about web accessibility while you are working.
Things to consider include:
- using plain English so content is clear and easy to understand
- writing content specifically for the web instead of publishing documents designed for print
- including alt text with images
- providing long descriptions for tables, graphs and diagrams when alt text isn’t long enough to describe the complexity
- providing captions and transcripts for video
- marking up content with the correct HTML elements, for example headings, lists and tables
- providing enough colour contrast between text and background
- making sure webpages can be used with only a keyboard
- making sure keyboard focus is easily visible.
Assessment and reporting
You need to assess and report on your conformance with the Standard when requested by the Department of Internal Affairs. This includes submitting a risk assessment and management plan regarding any areas of non-conformance.