What is Web Accessibility?

One of the most common questions we get from our network is what is web accessibility? 

As web accessibility is still a growing topic amongst web teams and businesses alike, it’s no surprise most people still don’t know exactly what web accessibility means.

By taking a step back, we can provide a robust understanding of what accessibility is by taking a look at these 3 key sub-topics:

  • What was the concept of web accessibility introduced? 
  • What may restrict someone from accessing a website?
  • What does web accessibility really mean today?

When was the concept of web accessibility introduced? 

The term web accessibility has been lingering around for a couple of decades. The concept was initially documented when the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) who put forward the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in 1997.

WAI started as several working groups with different technical understanding that have now grown to build a global virtual hub of strategies, standards and resources for businesses and individuals looking to put accessibility first on their digital platforms. 

What may restrict someone from using a website?

Graphic of website with accessible wcag compliant elements for WCAG 2.1 AA Web accessibility seeks to ensure the web is accessible, usable, and understandable for all user types. Web accessibility is most commonly associated with users that may be limited in access due to varying disabilities.

Online users may have permanent or temporary, cognitive or physical disabilities that limit how they interact with certain digital platforms. This may include, but is not limited to, visual, auditory, speech, physical, or neurological disabilities.

As approximately 18% of Australians live with a disability, web accessibility is absolutely crucial.

Taking a wider glance at inclusive web design, web accessibility can also cater inclusively for user groups that are impacted by temporary situational factors such as slow internet, incorrect hardware (i.e. Not having headphones in public places), or environmental issues.

What does web accessibility mean today? 

In today’s digital world, web accessibility means digital platforms are designed and developed in a way that provides users of all abilities a way to access, use, navigate, and understand them.

The breadth of the term “web accessibility” has expanded as technology has become more instrumental to businesses. We rely more and more on digital to create connections between businesses and customers and it’s rare that a company will only have a single website to maintain. Take any large bank for example: They’ll most likely have a primary website to market their services and products; an online customer banking portal; a mobile app for mobile banking; and a digital resource hub for financial and legal information.