What is Digital Accessibility

Digital accessibility is the process of making electronic resources accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. With the current pandemic meaning that more of us are working remotely than ever before, making the digital world accessible has become even more urgent.

When it comes to accessibility, we are referring to the design of environments, products, and services that have no barrier to usability so that all users have equal access to them.

The Law, Briefly

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibited federal agencies and government contractors from discriminating against the disabled.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required private and public spaces should be accessible to individuals with a disability. In terms of Title III, this meant that places of public accommodation had to meet various ADA guidelines, such as providing ramps or widening doors for wheelchairs.

Another important year for digital accessibility was 1998 when section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was amended, and federal agencies were required to provide equal access to digital content for disabled users.

In 2017, a 508 Refresh took place where 508 incorporated the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA so technical standards would be available for government websites.

Difference Between Web vs. Digital Accessibility

Web accessibility and digital accessibility are often used interchangeably, but the two terms have different meanings.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility involves making online assets – websites, apps, documents, etc. – accessible.

The World Wide Web Consortium created the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) that set out guidelines (WCAG) that have been widely adopted globally to ensure that best practices are in place to make the web accessible to all individuals.

Digital Accessibility Defined

In contrast, digital accessibility is broader and encompasses accessible web content but also all electronics, including hardware and non-web products such as computers, kiosks, mobile apps, software, etc.

This requires designing digital products and services to be accessible to as wide a range of users as possible, including those who rely upon assistive technology.

Assistive technology helps give individuals with disabilities the ability to increase their communication, hearing, mobility, or vision capabilities using specifically designed tools and software.

Assistive technology includes screen readers, refreshable braille displays, screen magnifiers, speech recognition software, joysticks and mice, sip and puff devices, and other technologies.

What Is The Importance of Digital Accessibility?

If you don’t make the digital world accessible, you leave people out.

Who is affected?

Digital accessibility positively impacts people with all types of disabilities, including:

  • motor skills impairments
  • visual impairments
  • cognitive impairments
  • hearing impairments
  • those susceptible to seizures

In a Nutshell

With our increasing reliance on technology, it is crucial that we build our digital assets and environments accessibly so that everyone get has access to the physical and digital world.