Post-Covid, the responsibility is on organisations themselves to ensure public web accessibility

Digital accessibility and equal access to information is a fundamental human right, yet the variable needs of impaired website users are often a fragmented and daunting concept that remains largely unrecognised by many organisations and web designers as a result. But iaccess have released a new simple software accessibility ‘widget’ solution to the market aimed at helping organisations minimise digital accessibility barriers and better connect with impaired website users.


The release of the iaccess accessibility widget is just in time for 2021 post-pandemic business planning. With daily life moving largely online as a result of Covid-19, the shift from in-person to a digital-first society has become the new normal. The uncomfortable truth is that the new normal drives home existing accessibility disadvantages that aren’t being addressed, leaving a good portion of our New Zealand community increasingly marginalised by digital creep on a day-to-day basis. For example, both Government and big organisations, such as insurers and the banking sector, are systematically pushing people online by reducing their public-facing counters and physical shop fronts in droves. Their corresponding responsibility in doing so means taking into account the needs of impaired website users and customers is non-negotiable. In other words, taking affirmative steps to demonstrate they acknowledge and recognise their corporate digital accessibility responsibility up front - because it shouldn't have to be up to individual users to ask why an organisation's website isn't accessible.


Digital accessibility isn’t a new issue. It’s been highlighted periodically in the media for years without much traction. The New Zealand Government and the rest of the world are talking about it too. Interestingly, the Government have developed Web Accessibility and Usability Standards that have been in effect since July 2019. These make it mandatory for the internal and external websites of all Government Departments and their agencies to meet certain accessibility standards.


The introduction of new assistive technology like the iaccess widget is a big step forward in helping improve digital accessibility. It equips organisations with one instant solution to help people who experience cognitive and visual impairments use websites and on-line services more easily. This also extends to people who don’t openly identify with a specific impairment such as elderly, or those who perhaps need prescription glasses but are delaying the inevitable for what ever personal reason. Organisations can immediately see the benefit of technology like the widget, and easily integrate the accessibility interface for their website users - without changing their underlying site. And there is no cost or download required by public users.


Exciting developments in the pipeline for the New Year are translation of the user menu options to both Māori and English.


How does the widget work? People using the widget menu have a wide range of assistive and remedial ‘overlay’ tool options to meet their particular user accessibility need. The widget tools range from changing font type, horizontal and vertical font spacing, colour-blindness user tools, dyslexia user tools including dyslexia fonts and reader rulers, contrast ratio adjustment, hide images and gifs, alter line focus, and changing cursor size, text/background/link colour preference among other assistive tools. The widget menu is accessed with the click of an inobtrusive accessibility icon, and a user’s chosen settings are stored in their web browser for their next website visit.


Organisational digital accessibility is a continuous journey, and with society is moving more and more online and there is no going back. Technology like the iaccess widget is just one of a number of inclusive improvements organisations can adopt on their journey toward lifting digital accessibility for their web users and customers.


For more information or to try the widget go to www.iaccess.org.nz


For more information or to try the widget go to www.iaccess.org.nz