Updated: May 29, 2019
One of the greatest things about the internet is that it has a democratizing effect – a world of information is at your fingertips online and you can instantly connect with people around the world, exploring new ideas, different opinions, and receive access to services. But it’s actually not accessible to everyone with an internet connection, unless websites comply with website accessibility standards that allow people with various disabilities to use them.
As part of an effort to provide people with motor, cognitive or sensory disabilities equal opportunities, in 2013 the Israeli Ministry of Justice applied a set of website accessibility regulations requiring websites to comply with a series of accessibility guidelines (Hebrew), similar to the WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines (English).
A lot of these guidelines make a lot of sense from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and User Experience (UX) perspective anyway, such as having alternative text for images, and you should be doing them no matter what. Other requirements mean putting in a bit more work. What follows is a brief summary of the main guidelines. Please note that this summary is meant to be informative and not as a replacement for legal advice.
Alternate text for images
- Make sure to provide “alt tags” for all images. WordPress has a designated field to add these for each image in the Media Library. These tags are useful to blind and vision impaired site visitors because their screen reader can tell them what the image is about. It also means that search engines can read what they’re about too, since they can’t understand images. That means that just repeating the title of the blog post and image is located in, or using the number of the photo from your camera roll like “001.jpg” won’t cut it. Is it a picture of a fish? Your alt tag should say “fish”.
- If non-text content is primarily intended to create a specific sensory experience, then text alternatives at least provide descriptive identification of the non-text content.
Audio and video
- Providing text alternatives or captions for audio and video content.
Layout and formatting
- Divide and mark up your content such that HTML tags are used correctly. This means that <h1>tags go around the very main content like the site title, followed by h2 for sub-categories and article titles. List should use <li> tags and paragraphs should be contained in <p> tags.
- Content should be easily read and understood.
- No elements such as tickers or sliders should automatically run without the ability for a user to manually stop or pause them.
- Links should not say “click here”, but rather be linked text, providing contextual information.
- The site should perform well when viewed in a screen reader.
- Error messages should be as specific as possible.
Text size and color
- The website’s layout should not break when zoomed up to 200% and the color contrast should be strong enough. This color contrast tool can help you check if it is.
- The “focus” element on links should be used so that a user can see where they are when using TAB on their keyboard.
If this sounds a lot like best SEO practices, that is probably because a site that stands up to accessibility code is also easier for search engines to scan. Additionally, surveys show that somewhere between 20-25% of internet users have some sort of disability. An accessible website is one that more people can reach!
All new websites were supposed to have been made accessible by October 25, 2015, and existing websites have an extension until October 25, 2016 to meet them. However, the Israel Internet Association, noting the difficulties of making websites accessible for the small business owner and hobbyist, requested an exemption for site owners earning less than 500 million NIS in annual revenue. They argued that making small business websites meet these rigorous standards (or face hefty fines) by the end of 2016 is unfairly punitive and unrealistic. A final decision is expected by February 2016, and we will be posting updates.
Who Must Comply?
The bottom line:
Implications and Consequences
Anyone who browses your website and runs into any problem accessing your content is able to sue for up to 50,000 NIS! Breach of the duty to make necessary adjustments to one’s website is a civil wrong under the Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Law, 5758-1998. This breach is also actionable by class action lawsuit. As far as we’ve learned, they don’t even need to necessarily prove that they are disabled.