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Accessible Websites

1 January 2017

The worldwide web is a central and meaningful part of our daily routines; it serves us in nearly all areas of our life: personal, health, cultural, professional, and consuming. The main target audiences for which websites are made accessible include those with physical or mental handicap, vision impaired, etc. This demographic is approximately 25% of the general population.

'The Israeli internet accessibility’ law, October 2016, is meant to enable handicapped people to surf the web and be able to both comprehend all content presented to a 'regular' target audience and perform all required activities. As time goes by, an increasing number of website managers have realized that beside the legal duty to make website accessible and the social responsibility it encompasses, there are other reasons a manager should consider making websites more accessible. These reasons include improving compatibility to search engines and increasing traffic volume, improving usability indicators & conversion rates and improving organizational image.

An accessible website is constructed according to the accessibility instructions provided by the W3C. There are 60 instructions, divided into 4 central principles:

  • The website must be perceivable: the data and components included in the website's user interface must be presented in a manner in which users can perceive them using either their available sense or supporting technology. For example, pictures should include hidden text explaining their content in order to assist blind users; video content should include closed captions for the hearing impaired; the incorporated colors must be adapted to seeing impairments and/or color blindness; etc.

  • The website must be operational: the user interface's components and navigation methodology must be operational via easily executed actions. The website must be operational using a keyboard for those who cannot or have a hard time utilizing a mouse; the website must enable stopping distractions such as animation; etc.

  • The website must be comprehensible: users should be able to understand both the content/data and how to operate the user interface. Therefore, the website's operation, look and readability must be consistent and comprehensible; instructions regarding form-filling must be clear, simple and precise error messages; etc.

  • Technological compatibility: severely handicapped people usually rely on various technological means in order to use the computer and surf the web. Accessible websites must be technically compatible with these technologies.

The accessibility instructions regarding internet content define three levels of accessibility: A (basic accessibility), AA (medium), and AAA (highly accessible). The service instructions are derived from the AA accessibility level.

The law in Israel states that any internet website over 30 pages which provides wide information or services to the general public is obliged to conform to AA accessibility standards. Not only the website pages, but every component, document and application on the web must be accessible.

In conclusion, it can be said that website accessibility supports a social business approach according to which a quality service and surfing experience should be available to all potential and existing customers. This UX may enable fully actualizing the full potential of all existing target audiences and assist in recruiting new customers.

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