Understanding the Intent of Digital Accessibility Standards

Published August 10, 2022

Digital accessibility professionals often focus so intensely on achieving compliance that they lose sight of why these updates are essential.

Laws about accessibility differ worldwide, but many refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They describe the goal of WCAG as “providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.” And the standards themselves describe how to achieve that accessibility.

Achieving technical compliance with the standards is necessary to improve accessibility, but remembering why these standards matter is important too.

Making the mission approachable

There can be a lot to consider when it comes to improving digital accessibility. Having a well-organized set of standards to guide where to start will help set clear benchmarks and help clarify what is and isn’t acceptable. Technological advances and the release of digital content in new forms are constantly occurring. By establishing digital accessibility standards, we can ensure that persons with disabilities aren't left behind as technology advances.

Respecting the rights of persons with disabilities

It has taken time for governments to recognize and acknowledge that equal access to digital content is a civil right that needs to be protected. This fact still isn’t necessarily common knowledge. Accessibility standards ensure these rights are protected, and organizations, companies, and other content creators know how to respect them.

Setting a global standard

Digital accessibility is essential regardless of where a person lives, but the laws governing rights aren’t the same in every country. It’s up to each nation to develop appropriate legislation to protect rights, but these days, we’re living in a world where we are much more likely to be affected by the regulations of countries where we do not reside.

So much digital content is accessible from anywhere in the world that having a globally-recognized standard can help ensure better experiences independent of the content's origins or the user's location.

Improving equality and inclusion

Persons with disabilities often face challenges due to a lack of consideration of their existence and needs, which can lead to exclusion and barriers.

People can often understand the importance of addressing physical barriers and accessibility needs in the material world. Still, as everyday life becomes increasingly reliant upon digital tools and services, digital accessibility becomes much more important.

These days, it may be necessary to refer to websites, applications, or other digital resources to access information, services, experiences, or opportunities. If these resources aren’t accessible, the resulting barriers can leave persons with disabilities at a disadvantage or even put them at risk.

Digital accessibility standards aim to remove these barriers and provide equal access to the digital resources necessary in today’s world.

Encouraging positive cultural change

There is still a lot of stigma against persons with disabilities, and change often doesn’t happen without a concerted effort. It would be great if everyone could become accepting and agree to eradicate stigma voluntarily. The truth is that standards and legislation often establish a starting point for cultural change.

Digital accessibility standards outline how to remove barriers in the digital space, but they also explain why doing so is essential. It will be easier for people to understand how expansive accessibility is and why it is important as they become more aware of these standards.

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