When you have a website, it’s important to make sure it is available to as many people as possible. Web accessibility refers to the practice of implementing and upholding functionality to ensure flexibility of use. An example is the ability to navigate a site using a keyboard or screen reader instead of a touchscreen or mouse. Making your website usable for all takes diligence and empathy, and starts at the beginning when building a new website. Today, we will be taking a look at a few thoughts for website accessibility for your business’s online platforms.
Website Accessibility and The Law
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act enforces web accessibility and points to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for recommendations. Failure to follow the guidelines can open some businesses up to a host of legal issues, while also unfairly segmenting their audience.
The fact of the matter is without supporting key criteria to make your site widely available, you may be sending subliminal messages about your values. Plus, from a business standpoint, you will be missing out on key customer groups.
Making sure your website is accessible requires care and no corner-cutting as you build the website. However, there are a few things to keep in mind as you work toward the goal of accessibility. The following list is by no means complete.
- There should be a stark contrast between foreground and background colors. No part of the page should convey information based on color alone. This is helpful for those who are visually-impaired or colorblind. It also makes the site more flexible for all people, such as those viewing the website on their mobile device outdoors.
- Make sure the page is easy to navigate with clear buttons and titles that describe their intended functionality.
- Headings and spacing should be used to connect similar content. There should be media descriptions and alternatives for any pictures and videos.
Writing and Content
- Content should be concise and organized. Again, use headings to separate information and make content easier to parse and read.
- Provide any captions and alternative text for pictures and, if applicable, instructions for using the information.
- Links should have unique names that clearly describe what they are and where they go. Avoid using the words “click here.”
- Avoid bunching large groups of text together. Consider creating bulleted lists and subheadings.
- Your site should be available for browsing via a keyboard or screen reader. Use skip links to improve user experience.
- Don’t rely on automated testing tools alone. Take the time to try real-world tools, like VoiceOver, which comes included on all iPhones and Macs, to test how customers relying on those tools will experience your site.
- Label buttons and icons well so they don't need to be seen to be understood.
These are just a few ideas for adjustments to improve website accessibility. The overall process, however, includes adopting a more inclusive and empathetic mindset when approaching content.
It's hard to make changes if the site was not originally created with accessibility in mind. Further, one person in an office is not responsible to monitor for accessibility. It’s important for everyone to be working together to provide the best experience for the most amount of people.
For more information on accessibility, history, and laws, as well as more ideas for an inclusive website, w3.org has a lot of great resources.