What Does Accessibility Mean for Authors?

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Friday 14 July, 2023
by Dr Danielle Kennedy PhD

Have you ever struggled to read light-coloured text against a light-coloured background on a website? Was the font size too small, making it difficult to read? Have you experienced a font or script that you just couldn't decipher?

These are outcomes that we experience when enough attention is not paid to accessibility. Make sure your entire audience can engage with your content.

Find out about DDSN Accessibility services

What is Accessibility?

Put simply - Web accessibility is a standard that is set to ensure that everyone has access to web content.

Think of it as a combination of inclusion for public good and increased engagement for more profitable and better performing websites. The goal of the standard is that everyone gets the optimal experience on your website or web facing portal and is able to engage with your content leading to better outcomes for your business or organisation.

There are thousands of articles and blog posts defining and explaining web accessibility so we are not going to repeat definitions and explanations. Here are a few of our favourites:

 Three authors working on website content at their computers

The “cut curb effect” - Accessibility improvements help everyone

Today, nearly every footpath in Australia has small ramps dotted along the kerb. These ramps mean people using wheelchairs can move from the road to the footpath without seeking assistance. These “cut curbs” also benefit people pushing prams, people skateboarding or cycling, and people with mobility issues. By putting into place accessibility options for people with disabilities, the whole of society benefits. This is called the  “cut curb effect”.

Accessible websites don’t just benefit people with disabilities, they benefit everyone. Clear standards for colour contrast and font size mean text across the internet is more readable and simple logical menus mean it’s easier for everyone to navigate to the information they need. - Vision Australia

We all need to easily  perceiveunderstandnavigate and  interact with the online content we consume. 


Is Website Accessibility a Legal Requirement?

The accessibility standards are guidelines that are globally accepted as best practices for web development and content. There are three levels in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines - WCAG 2.0 and the refreshed WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

  • Level A - considered to be the universal minimum standard that everyone should meet on the internet
  • Level AA - the medium level (includes level A standards)
  • Level AAA - the highest level in the standard (includes the level AA standards)

It should be noted that if you conform to the WCAG 2.1 guidelines then you also conform to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

Whilst WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 compliance is not a legal requirement it may be discriminatory not to comply. There is a trend in the USA that sees companies prosecuted for failing to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act around website compliance.

In Australia the the  Disability Discrimination Act 1992 applies and if you are responsible for a government, government agency or a goverment funded website there are likely to be requirements for this site to meet a certain standard.

Australian government agencies in general are required to meet the WCAG 2.0 Level AA and there is a strong encouragement to meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA - Digital Transformation Agency advice on Accessibility.

In Victoria - at a minimum Victorian goverment websites or websites funded by the Victorian government are required to meet the Level AA WCAG 2.1 standard.

Additionally, where the audience is primarily people with disability the government requieres the level AAA or Triple A accessibility standards to be met. If you think about it - this makes perfect sense.


Accessible Website Design does not have to be boring

For accessible design of web facing sites, portals and software there is a perception that the design needs to be boring. Whilst careful consideration of the design is required it does not need to be boring. Design is not strictly the role of an author but you do need to know to ask about the design and if it complies. 


How to Implement Web Accessibility    

There is no one way to make your website accessible. We like to think of it as a journey - like all things that take dedicated effort over time.

There is a lot to consider so we have prepared a separate blog article just on this topic.

Learn how to implement website accessibiility standards


I am a content author - What do I need to know?

While much of the accessibility compliance is undertaken within website code and design layers most of the important work in accessibility is actually the day to day responsibility of content authors, producers and editors.

At the heart of accessibility is careful attention to the creation of content on your website. Things to focus on include:

  • Prepare written content that is easy to read - minimise the use of jargon
  • Ensure that you use headings to break up your content and that they are marked as headings - do not use bold and all caps to create a heading
  • Minimise the use of important text in graphics - prepare decorative graphics and add text to your pages in html
  • Make sure that tables are used for data that belongs in tables - dont use tables for layout
  • Ensure your videos are produced with captions
  • Ensure that attachments like pdf and documents are prepared to accessible standards

 A good place to start is to experience - walk in the shoes of another. There are two great ways to do this. 

  1. Listen to your page - use a tool like NVDA 
  2. Use the Silktide browser plugin - this is an emulator to give you the experience of disability on your own site and can emulate colour blindness, colour accuity differences and experiential differences such as dyslexia.

Accessibility Testing Tools

This is not an exhaustive list, rather consider this a brief list of free tools & paid SaaS products that we find useful in our day to day work as content authors.

  1. WebAIM - WebAIM has a handy plugin for browsers including Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge
  2. WebAIM Contrast Checker - WebAIM has a free handy tool for verifying the contrast of the colours that you have chosen to use.
  3. DynoMapper - This paid SaaS application provides a very detailed and technical report folowing a scan of your site. 
  4. SilkTide - This paid SaaS application provides very detailed reporting and dashboards and guided manual testing. Whilst more costly than other options it provides a lot of built in explainers and translations for the standards in terms that marketers and communications staff can understand. 


SEO tools e.g. SEMRush are already available to many web content authors have access to SEO tools. These tools can be used to good effect for identifying the following website hygiene issues that have an effect on accessibility, including e.g.;

  • headings and their order
  • spelling and grammar issues
  • use of alternative text for images, and
  • broken links amongst other hygiene issues


Improving your content SEO hygiene will improve the accessibility of your content


Do Accessibility Testing Tools Identify ALL Accessibility Issues?

Short answer - No.

Many of them accessibility guidelines are human interpretable - that means a person must assess them and they are not able to be identified using automated scanning tool.

In addition, you are reliant when scanning on the algorithm and dictionary of the tool - for this reason it may over report issues. For example, finding scanning tools that have adequate dictionaries of scientific names e.g. for plants or with Australian place names. When these words that are correct are flagged as spelling mistakes it can cause a lot of lost time to go through them to truly identify the issues.

Why should you use more than one accessibility tool?

At DDSN we use a combination of accessibility scanning products - we use WebAIM (free), Dynomapper (paid - but cheaper), Silktide (paid - premium product), SERPstat (paid SEO) and SEMRush (paid SEO) .

All of the scanning tools all work differently. They function automatically on different accessibility criteria with different interpretations of the guidelines. Additionally the way that they represent the outcomes of scans are different and some are more technical in their focus,

Website Accessibility Testing Checklist

We have developed a handy checklist for content authors to have at hand when preparing content, authoring your pages and when you are ready to publish. 

Download Your Authoring Accessibility Checklist

DDSN Accessibility Services

Report Compliance

DDSN can test and report on WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 accessibility compliance

Improve Compliance

DDSN can resolve accessibility issues and make your site accessible

Maintain Compliance

DDSN can maintain your website to an accessible standard