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Introduction to Digital Accessibility

Three goats on a tree.


The goal of digital accessibility is to create digital products and services that are inclusive and provide equal access to information and functionality to all users, regardless of their abilities.

When you publish digital content without considering accessibility, you may be creating barriers for your visitors to overcome in order to access it. This is why it’s so important to consider digital accessibility when you create your digital content.

This article aims to introduce you to the principles of digital accessibility, and shed some light on some of the things you need to know when creating accessible digital content.

The Core Principles of Digital Accessibility

The core principles of digital accessibility are based on four core principles known as the “POUR” principles, which were developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These principles provide a framework for ensuring that digital content is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities.

The four principles are:

Perceivable: Digital content must be perceivable by all users. This means that it should be presented in a way that can be perceived through at least one sensory channel, such as sight, sound, or touch.

For example, images should have descriptive alt text for individuals who cannot see them, and videos should have captions or transcripts for individuals who cannot hear them.

Operable: Digital content must be operable by all users. This means that it should be designed in a way that allows users to interact with it using a variety of input methods, including keyboards, mice, touchscreens, and assistive technologies.

For example, websites should be navigable using a keyboard alone, without the need for a mouse.

Understandable: Digital content must be understandable by all users. This means that it should be presented in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

For example, language should be simple and straightforward, and instructions should be clear and concise.

Robust: Digital content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide range of platforms and software, including assistive technologies. This means that it should be designed in a way that conforms to web standards and is compatible with a variety of browsers and devices.

For example, auditing your digital content to check for accessibility improvements, and checking that it works on a variety of different devices like PCs, Macs and mobiles.

By following these principles, digital content can be made accessible to all your visitors. It is important to note that these principles are not a set of hard-and-fast rules, but rather a framework for thinking about accessibility.

In practice, digital accessibility involves a variety of techniques and best practices, including the use of accessible coding practices, assistive technologies, and user testing with individuals that experience accessibility barriers and challenges.

What Are Accessibility Modes?

Accessibility considerations can be categorized into several different modes or types, including:

Visual: This mode includes individuals with low vision, partial sight, or blindness. They may require screen readers, magnifiers, or high contrast settings to access digital content.

Auditory: This mode of disability includes individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. They may require captions, transcripts, or visual cues to access audio content.

Motor: This mode includes individuals with physical disabilities that affect their ability to use a keyboard, mouse, or other input devices. They may require alternative input methods, such as voice recognition software, or assistive devices, such as switches and joysticks.

Cognitive: This mode includes individuals with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, such as dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They may require simplified language, clear instructions, or assistive technologies, such as text-to-speech software.

Speech: This mode includes individuals who have difficulty speaking or communicating verbally. They may require alternative communication methods, such as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.

Neurological: This mode of includes individuals with neurological disabilities, such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. They may require assistive technologies, such as specialised keyboards or voice recognition software, to access digital content.

It’s important to note that the access needs of your visitors are not always straightforward and may involve a combination of different modes. When considering digital accessibility it’s important to take into account a wide range of accessibility features to ensure that all users, regardless of their abilities, can access and use your digital content.

What next?

This article has explained some of the basics you need to think about when creating accessible content. To learn more, you can read an article published on the site that has some great tips on the dos and don’ts when designing for accessibility.

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations and individuals who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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