The internet is our primary source of information, communication, and entertainment. But we’ve all experienced the frustration of navigating mobile-unfriendly pages, squinting at hard-to-read fonts, and the irritation at slow-loading websites.
While these issues are slightly inconvenient to us, for people with disabilities, these problems can make the internet completely inaccessible.
What Is Web Accessibility?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 4 adults (26%) in the United States have some type of disability. Web accessibility is about making a website accessible to everyone by creating web design, tools, and content that everyone can use - regardless of ability.
Why Is Web Accessibility Important?
Besides making the internet more inclusive for everyone, web accessibility gives people with disabilities equal access to a digital platform. Accessibility also provides a better user experience which improves your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. This, in turn, helps your website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) which increases your audience reach. Not only is web accessibility one of the best practices for web design, but it also helps businesses expand their market reach and improve customer satisfaction.
Types of Disability
Let’s look at the types of disabilities that affect the accessibility of your website – and their corresponding solutions:
• Visual – includes blindness, low vision, and color blindness.
Solution: Screen magnifying software or screen readers that read aloud digital text and describe website images.
• Hearing – includes deafness and hearing impairments.
Solution: The audio content on the website should include subtitles or a transcript, so it’s easier to understand and interact with web content.
• Cognitive – includes attention and learning disabilities.
Solution: Use simple language, consistent layout, and navigation, and create video content.
• Motor – includes limited fine motor control, muscle slowness, and difficulty or inability to use hands, making it challenging to use mice or trackpads.
Solution: Use customized devices like head pointers, mouth sticks, or speech recognition.
Website Accessibility Checklist
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are international guidelines for creating accessible websites. The WCAG (currently WCAG 2.0) provides a common standard for web content accessibility.
While it’s mainly intended for developers, designers, and accessibility experts, the WCAG documents explain how to make a website more accessible. The guidelines are organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, and there are three levels of conformance: A-minimal, AA-satisfying, or AAA-excellent.
Implementing all of the WCAG standards takes time, but starting with the basics will help you make your website more friendly to users with disabilities.
Check for the following factors to improve accessibility and see if your website meets the WCAG guidelines.
Since a screen reader can read the page title in addition to the content, adding a descriptive page title can help impaired users navigate between different web pages. Some people need to enlarge letters or change the font and line spacing when reading. Your site will be more accessible if you make the text zoomable without affecting the rest of the content. Also, consider marking headings so people can use the keyboard or advanced technology (AT) to navigate.
• Alt Text
All users should have access to the same information, whether they can see the images or not. Alt text provides a blind user with written information instead of illustrations, images, and charts by using screen readers.
• Video and Audio Alternatives
To help blind users or people with hearing impairments access the information on your website, provide multimedia alternatives like text transcripts or descriptions in audio files. A good accessibility example is providing an audio description for a video or adding captions.
Not everyone can use a mouse, so make sure that all parts of your website can be accessed using a keyboard or advanced technology (AT). Site structures, such as site maps and search boxes, should have logical and instinctual navigation so users can easily find what they want.
• Color Contrast
It’s easier for low-vision users to see web content with high-contrast colors. For example, using a dark background with light text color (or vice versa) will increase visibility.
But, since every user has different capabilities, provide the option to change the color combination in the web browser.
• Moving, Blinking, Flashing Content
Videos, ads, carousels, and other moving, blinking, and flashing content can cause problems for users with cognitive disabilities. And to help users avoid confusion when processing information, make sure your web page has a time limit for rapidly changing content that can be turned off or adjusted. It’s also important to remember that content that blinks more than three times per second can cause seizures for people with photosensitive disorders.
• Accessible Form
To help users with a disability understand a web form, put a label next to the field you want them to click on or type in. Adding a label will enable users with AT to understand what to do in that specific field.
Web accessibility is a legal requirement, but it also improves your website’s user experience, increases your audience, and boosts higher rankings on SERPs. Besides following the WCAG guidelines, it’s essential to evaluate your website’s accessibility using evaluation tools like WAVE and WebAim. Online courses on web accessibility are available from Google, Coursera, and EdX.
At Impact Group Marketing, we create accessible, responsive, search engine-friendly websites that meet WCAG guidelines. Contact us today if you need help building a website that anchors your brand and is accessible to everyone.