Accessibility refers to making digital content functional for all users, including those using assistive technologies like screen readers. The goal is to eliminate obstacles and ensure anyone can receive and understand information online, with privacy and security.
Digital accessibility ensures that people with disabilities can access websites, apps, and online content. This session provided an overview of accessibility, common barriers faced by those with disabilities, and best practices for organizations to follow.
Accessibility and Digital Rights
Accessibility in digital products and services is crucial to ensure all individuals can use and understand content. It improves user satisfaction and will eliminate obstacles in understanding information. It enhances privacy and freedom of expression. Accessibility also means persons with disabilities have autonomy and individuality in how they use digital products.
Disabilities can be visible or non-visible. Around 1 in 6 people live with some form of disability. Disability isn’t necessarily something you are born with, and it can appear at some point in your life due to age or disease.
Accessibility experts sometimes use disability simulation tools to demonstrate conditions like low vision, colour blindness, tunnel vision, and dyslexia.
Guidelines and Standards
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) provide standards for building accessible websites and apps. The latest version is WCAG 2.2, which was published in October 2023.
There are three levels of compliance with the WCAG framework: A, the lowest level, followed by AA, and AAA, the highest level. Organizations should comply with Level A standards at a minimum.
Level A – Basic Accessibility Conformance
This level is the least strict, and its standards are required for every website. If a website doesn’t conform to level A, it is likely to have barriers to access to information for persons with disabilities.
The success criteria for the level include practices such as having alternative text and successful keyboard navigation. Forms must have instructions or labels, assistive tech such as screen readers must be able to access the content, and the information must not be presented via colour, shape, or size alone. This is a partial list of the success criteria required, but you get the idea. To achieve level A compliance, websites must meet 30 criteria outlined in the WCAG 2.2 Guidelines.
KICTANet’s Digital Accessibility program published a scorecard outlining the level of compliance of Kenyan Government websites with accessibility principles. The report can be found here.
Level AA – Strong Accessibility Conformance
Double A level makes content accessible to users in broader contexts and comes highly recommended by experts. Many countries also consider compliance with the AA standard the legal threshold. The success criteria at this level include adherence to all the requirements for level A and 20 more outlined for this level.
Some examples include using a good text-to-background colour contrast ratio of at least 4.5 to 1. In addition, content should be organised under headings in a logical order, for instance, H1, H2, H3, etc.
Level AAA – Excellent Accessibility Compliance
Triple A is the highest possible level of compliance with WCAG. To achieve this level, you must fulfil all the criteria of the previous two levels and the 28 requirements of this standard. It may only apply to or be realistic for some instances to achieve triple-A compliance.
Examples of success criteria include the following; text-to-background colour contrast ratio is at least 7 to 1. Pre-recorded videos have a sign language interpreter and extended audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos.
The Constitution of Kenya, various international treaties, and policy frameworks on access to public ICT services by persons with disabilities establish accessibility as a civil right.
So, who should be involved in your organisation’s accessibility plan? Ideally, everybody, but for implementation to work, it has to come in from the executive and leadership teams in a top-down approach.