What is website perceivability?

What perceivable means and why it's so important when it comes to website accessibility

How to make your website perceivable

A website is the online front door to your organisation. In an increasingly digital world your website may well be the only front door to your organisation. Are you sure that once through the ‘door’ everyone can make sense of what’s inside?

Being able to make sense of everything on your website is what website perceivability is all about.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “Perceivability is the umbrella term that covers all accessibility barriers related to the sense organs: visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory.” In other words, if someone with a disability can’t see, hear, touch, or smell what’s on your site, then your site isn’t perceivable.

Making your site perceivable is crucial to ensuring that everyone can use and navigate your site.

The first principle (there are 4 under which the WCAG guidelines are organised) is perceivable, which means that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

What does this mean in practice?

It means providing text alternatives for non-text content, such as images; giving users enough time to read and use content; minimising distractions; helping users navigate and find content; and providing ways to help users customize their content presentation.

One simple action you can take now (or something to check has been done) is to ensure all your images have what is known as ‘alt text’. Alt text is a description of an image which can be read by screen readers, so having it in place for all your images allows visually impaired individuals to understand what an image is without being able to see it.

Got video on your site? All your videos should have captions and, where possible, audio descriptions.

On the subject of video you should also give people the ability to pause video. This is often present with videos embedded into a page, but video is now commonly used in the header regions of homepages where they are set to play automatically which can be problematic. If this is the case on your site, and the video in question is longer than 5 seconds, then you should ensure there is an option available, through a pause button, for people to stop the auto play.

Reviewing your text is another simple action you can take. We have written before about colour contrast, you can find the post here, but you also need to pay attention to both your font type and the size. It can be tempting to try and find an unusual font that will make you stand out from your competitors, and by all means do, but be careful this doesn’t end up excluding people by being too intricate and a strain on the eyes.

As new technologies emerge accessibility guidelines will adapt and evolve. As such, it is important to regularly review your website to ensure that it still adheres to all current accessibility guidelines.