How Accessible or Digitally Inclusive is Your Web Page?

how accessible or digitally inclusive is your web page

When I designed my first web page, I included some imagery that I felt at the time was rather dark and hopeless in its tone.  I was hesitant about including it.  I thought it would be ok because I wanted to communicate a transformative message. 

I wanted to say that despite feeling the hopelessness of a situation when faced with an unexpected event, that challenges can be overcome.  I wanted to say that I will be there to help you through your challenge.

I did not appreciate how colour and imagery can be emotional triggers for some people. 

When I redesigned my web page in 2021, selecting appropriate imagery for inclusion was a challenge.  I asked people to review my web page – paying particular attention to the imagery – what did they think of it?  Was it hopeful?  Was it inclusive?

I wanted the Connect4Work website to be inclusive in its language, content, design as well as the imagery.  Every visitor to my website – and indeed, visitors to your own organisation’s web page – will have unique experiences which influence how they will interact with websites, both mine and yours.

In February 2021, a Central Statistics Office survey reported the percentage of respondents that reported feeling downhearted or depressed all or most of the time rose from 5.5% in April 2020 to 15% in February 2021. Granted, it was during covid restrictions, but lockdowns drove us all on-line, altering how we live and work.  Improving accessibility in our increasingly digital world has become critical to business survival.

Web sites don’t come cheap as you probably know! Creating an accessible website makes sense. It is important from the perspective of reaching new customers, but can also contribute to employee engagement.

Traditional elements in web design – such as imagery, colours and fonts etc all need to be accessible to benefit everybody, but in particular those living with mental health or other disabling conditions. 

Web Accessibility for Organisations and their Employees

There are many benefits associated with investing in accessibility, ranging from ease of use for employees (and customers) to increased retention through making your digital platforms a trusted resource.

However, not all websites have fully implemented the principles of full accessibility yet.

A 2019 “Click-Away” survey of UK residents found that 7 in 10 disabled people left a site because it was inaccessible while 86% of respondents said they would spend more if there were fewer barriers. As a result, businesses lost an estimated €17 million, according to the survey.

The Disability Equality Index 2022, a collaboration between the American Association of People with Disabilities and the business disability inclusion non-profit Disability:IN, reports that 61% of surveyed organisations have an accessibility expert to resolve internal digital accessibility issues.

Does your organisation have an accessibility expert ensuring accessibility and digital inclusion?

How to improve Web Accessibility & Digital Inclusion for the Mental Health Community

When designing and developing websites to be accessed by everyone, guidance is available through an international standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The WCAG is developed in cooperation with individuals and global organisations, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organisations, and governments internationally.

It explains how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities, WCAG2.2, the most recent version is scheduled to be finalised in December 2022.

Recommendations to improve web accessibility and digital inclusion for individuals with mental health disabilities:

  •     Add relevant headings and lists
  •    Have evenly distributed white space throughout your content
  •    Separate content into shorter, condensed paragraphs
  •    Use bulleted lists
  •     Include logical reading order and organisation
  •    Use friendly fonts and softer colour tones and hues
  •    Incorporate properly coded search bars with easy navigation and relevant      explanations
  •     Minimise complexity to avoid cognitive overload
  • Provide sign language interpreters or closed captioning at meetings, webinars etc 
  • ·   Incorporate diverse imagery without depicting those in distress or feelings of hopelessness

While creating an accessible and digitally inclusive web platform is something that takes time, care, research, and dedication, the benefits both from a community and financial perspective can be immense.  It is a standard to strive toward for private enterprise, however, public bodies in Ireland must ensure their websites and mobile apps are accessible to all people, including persons with disabilities since 2020.

The European Union (Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies) Regulations 2020 builds on existing obligations to make websites and services offered to the public under the Disability Act 2005 and the Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies.

The National Disability Authority is the national monitoring body for these Regulations.

 This has been a very interesting topic to write about.  I trust you have found it informative, if you have, please feel free to share it with your IT department, colleagues or your own network. 

Let’s keep the conversation about mental health going!

Thank you for your time to read this.

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