By Kate McCarthy
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
– Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Currently, around 10% or 650 million people live with a disability.
That means unless you have designed your product to be accessible to all, you deny access to many. In fact, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right. Therefore any restriction or limitation to the web and services or products it provides amounts to the denial of what is essentially a basic human right.
It is this emphasis on equal access that motivated us to proactively address the issue of accessibility within our company, and the products and services we offer. As Bill Donoghue, our CEO puts it, “Our definition of equity for all goes beyond being compliant, to striving and setting new standards of excellence.”
It’s why we have decided to invest $3 million into our efforts to make sure everyone using Skillsoft has the same access and the same opportunities for developing their skills and furthering their careers.
We now have an Accessibility Program Office whose sole purpose, or mission, is to make sure our content and technology meets, or even exceeds, the latest global accessibility standards, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Those of you involved with Federal agencies will already be familiar with working to and meeting accessibility standards, and thankfully many corporations have made huge steps with regard to providing all employees equal access to learning opportunities.
If however, you are unfamiliar with the current accessibility standards and guidelines, I recommend looking at
- Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act specifying the requirements for accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that each federal agency needs to follow section508.gov.
- WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) – technical standard developed with the W3C and others to establish a single shared standard for web content accessibility. 12 Guidelines organized under 4 sections, each with three levels.
We’ve also partnered with The Paciello Group (TPG), one of the world’s leading accessibility consultancies, to assist us as we work through our content and technology to ensure we are meeting everyone’s different needs and requirements.
Focusing on accessibility improves the user experience for all users; numerous case studies demonstrate that accessible websites appear higher up in search results, reduce maintenance costs, and increase audience reach, among other benefits.
If you are thinking about how to promote accessibility in your own organization, you might start by developing a web accessibility business case; there’s plenty of advice and helpful information available online and I’d recommend starting here.
Accessibility is more than simply offering alt text for images and transcripts for videos. It is the bringing together of several components including: developers, authoring tools, users, web browsers and evaluation tools, and using a holistic approach to create tools and content that everyone can access.
For us, it simply means equal learning opportunities for all.
Find out more about Skillsoft’s accessibility initiative.
Kate McCarthy is the vice president of Accessibility at Skillsoft.