An accessibility statement makes a good addition to all web sites. It is not only a place to demonstrate that you are taking accessibility seriously, but more importantly, it should provide extra information for visitors to your site — particularly for those people with disabilities who need to know about the accessibility of the information and services you provide — and a mechanism to receive feedback on accessibility.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), a disability is defined as:
A physical or mental impairment that has a long-term or substantial effect on a person’s ability to carry out day to day tasks.
This ranges from people with physical and sensory impairments to people with diabetes, disfigurements, heart disease and epilepsy.
Accessibility, therefore, can be viewed as the “ability to access” the functionality of a system or entity. Furthermore, accessibility is a somewhat general term used to describe the degree to which a product (e.g. device, service and environment) is accessible to as many people as possible. Accessibility is often used to focus on people with disabilities and their right of access to entities, often through use of assistive technology.
A dimension of accessibility is web accessibility. Web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users can have equal access to information and functionality. In many countries this has led to initiatives, laws and regulations that aim toward providing universal access to the internet.
Digital Web Magazine has a great article on whether accessibility statements are useful, which is well worth a read.
The main points of consideration that can be garnered from the article are as follows:
- Make the accessibility link prominent and provide it in a consistent location so that website visitors can find it easily.
- Provide rich content that explains how to use the accessibility features provided, rather than just listing the features themselves.
- Separate the content into sections and provide headings for each section.
- Provide contact information in various formats so that website visitors can directly contact the team responsible for accessibility queries.
- Actively promote feedback from website visitors. Use comments to continually improve the website.
- Provide a known barriers section which details inaccessible areas of the website along with alternative ways of obtaining the information or services.
- List technical and conformance information at the end of the accessibility statement. This will allow the information to be readily available, whilst not being placed in a prominent position.
Your accessibility statement will be organic — you may only start with a few lines but as your site develops in terms of accessibility, and your understanding of the accessibility of the site develops, so will your statement. As it can often be created and then forgotten about, it is worthwhile taking time every so often to check through the statement to ensure that it is up-to-date and reflects the work done to enhance the site’s accessibility.