Making a website or application accessible means that it can be accessed and used by people with disabilities and the assistive technologies they use to navigate the web. The international standard for accessibility is WCAG Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1), created by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).
Firstly we need to present the 5 major categories of disabilities:
- Visual (includes blind, low-vision, and color blind)
- Hearing (includes deaf and hard of hearing)
- Motor (includes people who are not able to use a mouse)
- Speech (includes people who are not able to speak)
- Cognitive (includes dyslexia, ADD, and epilepsy)
However, the concept of accessibility does not just apply to disabled people - all users will have different needs at different times and in different circumstances. Someone's ability to use a service could be affected by their:
- location - they could be in a noisy cafe, sunny park, or area with slow wifi
- language - they could be in a foreign country not knowing the local language
- health - they may be tired, recovering from a stroke, or have a broken arm
- equipment - they could be on a mobile phone or using an older browser
Accessibility is about making sure your service can be used by as many people as possible. Thinking about this from the beginning will help you:
- make sure that nobody is excluded
- find out earlier if any parts of your service are not accessible - problems usually cost less to fix if you find them early
The Four Principles of Accessibility
Accessibility guidelines could break down into the following four categories:
- Perceivable - This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can't be invisible to all of their senses)
- Operable - This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
- Understandable - This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding)
- Robust - This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible)
Meeting accessibility requirements
Finally, if your service is part of the GOV.GR service registry it should meet the following accessibility requirements:
- meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1)
- work on the most commonly used assistive technologies - including screen magnifiers, screen readers, and speech recognition tools
- include disabled people in user research
If your service meets government accessibility requirements, then you'll also be meeting the accessibility regulations that apply to public sector websites and mobile applications. More specifically, websites of public organizations must comply with article 42 of the law for Digital Governance (L. 4727/2020) and the provisions of the Directive (EU) 2016/2102.
The Directive requires:
- an accessibility statement for each website and mobile app
- a feedback mechanism so users can flag accessibility problems or request information published in a non-accessible content
- harmonization with the EUROPEAN STANDARD for Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services (EN 301 549 V3.2.1 (2021-03)) which is in line with the most recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: WCAG 2.1.
In the next section, we provide a list of the most common accessibility issues affecting websites or applications. You can use it as a starting point for making your service accessible.