AnySurfer best practices (1)

15 May 2019

One of the objectives of DNS Belgium is to promote the use of the internet by making it more accessible, in particular for people with disabilities. It therefore makes sense for us to set a good example with our own website by obtaining the AnySurfer label.  

AnySurfer is a Belgian quality label for websites which are accessible for partially sighted, blind, colour blind, older people and people with disabilities. They are moreover easy to consult on small screens and in every web browser .  

We would like to draw on our experience to give you a few tips that can help you obtain the label. 

Consider ‘disabilities’ in broad terms and think of the details

People with ‘disabilities’ who visit your website are not only the deaf and blind. There are also a lot of people who are disabled temporarily or in a given context --  such as someone with a broken arm who cannot use his mouse, a barman who works in a noisy environment, people who do not speak the language, etc. – all of whom have to be taken into account also. 

The basic idea must be to develop empathy for people with disabilities in the broadest meaning of the term and to offer them a solution. That is no simple matter, because there are often all sorts of details that simply do not come spontaneously to the mind of a ‘website visitor without disabilities’. 

Here are a few examples:  

  • Meaningful link texts: ‘click here’ does not mean anything to people with disabilities, but ‘more information on the transfer code for your domain name’ does. 
  • Visuals: these are lost to persons with an impairment. You must find an alternative to visual data and enter the alt text for your images. 
  • Statistical data must be made accessible, for instance by using a table or an alt tag.
  • Tab order: people who cannot use a mouse and must therefore find their way through the website with a keyboard, will benefit if all elements are in the right order. 
  • PDFs and Word documents must be accessible. This means that the language must be correct and clear, the content understandable for those who cannot distinguish colours, etc.  You can use a free accessibility checker to ascertain whether your attachments meet all conditions. 

Go to a ‘recognised builder’ 

If you want a website built and are keen to obtain the AnySurfer label, it is best to turn to what AnySurfer calls a ‘recognised builder.’ ‘Recognised builders’ meet three conditions: 

  • They understand the accessibility principles; 
  • They apply them too, of course;  
  • They promote them among their customers.  

Opting for such a recognised builder makes the process for obtaining the label already a little easier.  

Consult the AnySurfer checklist 

Whoever wants to reduce costs and get down to work to obtain the AnySurfer label themselves must be well aware that ‘converting’ an existing website into an AnySurfer website is a daunting task. It requires no complex technical operations – although you must of course be able to handle the content management system of your website – but you have to rework your entire website nonetheless. You must test every page, every visual, every download, etc. against the AnySurfer checklist. You will find that checklist on the AnySurfer website (NL and FR only).

Obtaining the AnySurfer label for a new website becomes a little easier if you take account of the standards for AnySurfer right from the start. If you want to build an accessible website, it is useful to bear in mind that the people at AnySurfer are ever so easy to approach. While building our website, we worked intensively with them and we still verify regularly with them what can and cannot be done. 

Test as if you have a disability yourself 

When you think that you have done good work, you must subject your efforts to critical scrutiny. Our experience has shown that this is difficult because you have to think like someone with a disability. When testing, you have to carry out operations that do not mesh with your intuition and habits – operations you do not carry out daily yourself, such as having the website read out by your PC, visiting a website using only your keyboard, etc. 

One way could be to write a scenario, a sort of manual to be sure that you do not overlook anything. The necessary efforts must be made on the development front, but thorough testing is also needed, and that nonetheless takes quite some time.

And that is only half the battle. Once your website is accessible online, you must also ensure that all future adaptations are compliant with the AnySurfer Label. You can read more on that subject in the second article on the AnySurfer best practices. 

With this article, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.