Web accessibility is about inclusive design — ensuring all people can access information, including people with disabilities and those using assistive technologies and devices. All public service and non-public service agencies must meet the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard 1.0.
The New Zealand Web Accessibility Standard 1.0
The NZ standard is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an international standard that has been adopted by governments around the world.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 sets out requirements that make web content more accessible.
There are 4 principles that must be met in order to meet the NZ Web Accessibility Standard 1.0:
- Perceivable — information and user interface must be presented in ways that users can perceive.
- Operable — functionality must be available to all users, for example through a keyboard.
- Understandable — make content readable and understandable.
- Robust — content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide variety of users and assistive technologies.
Under each principle are guidelines that should be followed to make web content more accessible.
The benefits of accessible websites include:
- people can access information and services
- people can better participate in society
- accessible websites are easier to use
- they not only help people with disabilities but also help older people and people from different cultures
- agencies can reach a significantly larger portion of New Zealanders
- accessible sites are easier for search engines to crawl
- cost-savings can be made by building an accessible website from the beginning rather than fixing issues after development.
How to make an accessible website
It's easiest and cheapest to think about accessibility at the start of a project. If you work as a content person, designer or developer you should think about web accessibility while you are working.
Things to consider include:
- using plain English so content is clear and easy to understand
- writing content specifically for the web instead of publishing documents designed for print
- including alt text with images
- providing long descriptions for tables, graphs and diagrams when alt text isn’t long enough to describe the complexity
- providing captions and transcripts for video
- marking up content with the correct HTML elements, for example headings, lists and tables
- providing enough colour contrast between text and background
- making sure webpages can be used with only a keyboard
- making sure keyboard focus is easily visible.
Assessment and reporting
You need to assess and report on your conformance with the standard when requested by the Department of Internal Affairs.
This will involve assessing your website using the Web Accessibility Standard Test Suite, which also includes a test on usability requirements. The results of your test will direct accessibility training and guidance.
This includes submitting a risk assessment and management plan regarding any areas of non-conformance.