Accessibility has been a growing buzzword among online businesses, website operators, and business owners over the past few years (and for good reason). Not only are there tens of thousands of lawsuits filed each year against website owners for having non-accessible websites, but there’s also the basic need of ensuring web accessibility for everyone (not just those who don’t have disabilities).
There are tens of millions of Americans living with disabilities who use the internet as much (if not more) than the rest of the country’s population. Why would you purposefully (or negligently) deny this giant swath of the population accessibility to your web properties? Whether your website hasn’t been updated in a while, only has a few accessible pages, or you simply don’t even know where to start with making websites more accessible for people with disabilities, we have you covered.
Web accessibility doesn’t need to be some archaic topic only understood by those in the industry. Using the tips posted below will get your website on the fast track to being accessible. In the following sections we’ll go into exactly what accessibility is, how you can make your properties even more accessible, as well as the future of accessibility.
Defining Web Accessibility Standards
For every five Americans, at least one is living with a disability. 20% isn’t exactly an insignificant percentage of the population, either. What this means for your business and its websites is simple: you need to make them accessible, and you need to ensure accessibility as often as possible.
Design and Accessibility Should Be Connected
Ideally, businesses would design and develop websites with accessibility in mind from the start. Much of the blame can also be put on inexperienced web developers. With that being said, if you need to either redesign your website or make a new one from scratch – consider its overall accessibility from the ground up.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting until after you’ve finalized designs, code, etc. to actually do an accessibility review (only to find out that a lot of your content isn’t accessible for disabled internet users). If you ever need to redevelop your website, think of accessibility from the start – you’ll save yourself quite a few headaches if you do.
Making Navigation Easier
There’s a very large number of people with disabilities who use the internet for everything from watching movies or shopping, to working and browsing their favorite social media networks. If your website can’t be easily navigated with only a keyboard, you might have some work to do in regards to making your navigation a bit more accessible.
The benchmark way to ensure accessible navigation is to set your website up so that it can be easily browsed using only a keyboard. The reason why this is important is because some disabled users aren’t able to use a scroll mouse and/or pad, which means that they’re largely limited to the main keyboard of their computer.
Images Need to Include Alt Text
There are numerous blind and visually-impaired internet users. While some web developers and content managers might think that an image alt tag is only used for SEO or labeling purposes, the reality of the situation is that image alt tags are used for the specific purpose of making images accessible. The text that you put into the alt tag field becomes that image’s description for those users/browsers who are visually impaired.
Color Contrast Needs to Be Accentuated
While some web browsers have automatic plugins/tools that can set the entire browser to a higher contrast setting, many do not (and accessibility partly falls on your shoulders as a website owner, anyways). Having high contrast colors used in your design (or having the feature on your website in some form or another) is important for ensuring its visual accessibility.
Many internet users who suffer from vision impairments need the content they browse to be contrasted in a particular way (so that they can consume it more easily). Using or adding white space, dark on light colors, and then separating content into specific blocks can all make your website more accessible to those with vision difficulties.
Accessibility for the Future
The number of disabled people who use the internet is only going to continue growing.
As the world becomes more digitally-focused and interconnected, greater numbers of people in general will be connected to the web.
This means that accessibility isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you haven’t already started updating your site’s overall accessibility, the time to start is now.
A few actionable steps would be:
- Test your website for ADA and WCAG compliance through a platform like aCe or Wave.
- Use Google Accessibility Developer tools if you have the resources.
- Install accessiBe’s web accessibility overlay.
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