From a development perspective, a lot of digital accessibility boils down to best practices. Things like Semantic HTML and well-written alt-tags make it easier for other developers to read and work on your content or website. And things like captions, subtitles, and transcripts make content more versatile. Someone trying to view your video content in a noisy room or a bus might simply be grateful that these things are present—without giving much thought to what the experience would be like if they weren’t.
These examples of attention to detail and ease of use make a great case for why accessible content shows up higher in search results and works well across a range of devices. But best practices and ease of use aren’t why the law is involved. Accessibility—and digital access—are civil rights and the lack of these features within digital content can create challenges that deny affected people their protected civil rights.
Lack of Accessibility Means Exclusion
We live in a digital world. A large number of our daily tasks are done on web applications or screens. Whether these tasks are paying bills, shopping online, distance learning, tasks related to work, even dating; excluding a person from these digital realms puts them at a significant disadvantage. Such a disadvantage that they could be denied opportunities because of it.
Let’s use an online store for example. Say they have an item for sale and in plain text, they list the regular price of the item. The site puts a percentage over the image to show the discount. The image contains a note that says the discount will be applied at checkout. Now imagine that the developers of that site neglected to update the alt-tags on that image. A person browsing the site on a screen reader will have no way of knowing this item is on sale.
Users Have a Right to Privacy
The web applications we use know things about us—our taste in music or clothing, our political affiliations, dating preferences, credit card information. With some applications, we even share private medical details. We share this information with these apps because doing so lets us optimize certain tasks. Some tasks can’t be completed at all without sharing this information with these applications.
Since private information is necessary for these applications or websites to function, a person cannot get assistance for one of these applications or websites without sharing the necessary private information with an outside person. In order to protect the privacy of all of your users, you must ensure that your site is accessible enough that anyone can use it without outside assistance. Sufficient digital accessibility will provide every person visiting your website or using your application or accessing your content with the same standard of privacy. In other words, the same terms and conditions apply to everyone.
These are just a couple important points regarding digital content accessibility as a civil right. The laws in this realm are still taking shape and the standards and practices required of developers are evolving. Fortunately, the results of this growth serve to benefit everyone.