What's in this article
The internet is a vital tool for how we live our lives. Whether it’s searching for a job, learning about new topics or looking at our bank account, it’s hard to imagine what we’d do without the world wide web.
Web accessibility is fundamental to experiencing everything the internet and associated technology has to offer. Unfortunately, not every website and web tool is designed with full accessibility in mind, particularly when it comes to people with special accessibility requirements.
In this article, we’ll explore why web accessibility is such an important topic and tips for making your website more accessible and why web design agency's are incorporating it into their services.
What's in this article
Web accessibility means that websites and tools are designed in a way that people who have disabilities can easily use them.
While web accessibility helps everyone, the purpose of this article is to shine a light on the disabled community and how their user experience must be taken into consideration when accessing the internet.
These users could be anyone, so it is important to strive for inclusion and make sure your website is as accessible as possible.
There are a number of reasons why it’s crucial to have an accessible website, but there are also different challenges to overcome:
The first reason is that there is a legal obligation to make a website accessible. While laws differ across the world, in the UK there are stringent rules to adhere to called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which we’ll go into more depth about later on.
Two other key pieces of UK legislation to stick to are the 2010 Equality Act (EQA) and 2018 Public Sectors (Websites and mobile applications) accessibility regulations.
The former requires all website owners to provide an equal experience to users, while the latter brings public sector bodies and their websites into line with WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
If your website fails to meet these guidelines (unless you’re exempt), you’ll be subject to legal action.
The second accessibility challenge is providing information quickly in critical service based industries like housing, charity and mental health. In these sectors, vulnerable people may need to access life-saving information in a crisis. If a website doesn’t cater to their needs, it can have a devasting impact.
Therefore, it’s vital that issues such as slow loading speed, poor navigation links, missing alt text, and poorly structured forms are fixed as soon as possible.
Having the right level of accessibility is important for ensuring equality among people of all backgrounds. When a website is poorly designed, it creates barriers that make it difficult for those with physical impairments to get the best experience.
This has the knock on effect of people leaving a website and searching elsewhere.
Now we’ve looked at the importance of web accessibility, here are some tips for giving the best possible experience for disabled users.
The WCAGs are the gold standard of web accessibility regulations. Understanding how to make your website compliant with these guidelines is an easy way to improve accessibility. There are four principles your website must adhere to:
Screen readers help the visually impaired use a computer and navigate websites in different ways. One example is through a Text-To-Speech (TTS) engine that translates on-screen information into audio.
Another way is through a refreshable Braille display. This hardware device contains rows of cells that can be formed into Braille characters and they change as information on the screen changes. Braille and speech can be used independently and together in screen readers.
To make sure your website is compatible with screen readers, make sure that all webpages are well structured. This means having clear headings, lists, paragraphs, tables, images that have alt text descriptions etc.
You’ll want to make sure all of this is done in HTML or whatever code is used for building the website. This is because a screen reader will analyse the page code and make specific key commands available. For eample, if you have an alt text in an image, the screen reader will communicate the context of the image.
Text, graphics and colour all play an important role in website accessibility and here’s an overview of what to consider:
All these design elements are contingent on having coding that makes your website accessible and a special code to consider is Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). This is a set of attributes that you can add to HTML to make web content more accessible to disabled users. It helps solve accessibilty issues when standard HTML can’t.
The benefits of using ARIA include adding descriptive labels such as ‘Read More’ to text, make announcements to screen readers via ARIA -backed alert messages and make forms accessible.
Here are a couple of accessibility plugins that can compliment the coding of your website:
Making a website super-accessible is not trivial. Companies realise this and have created lots of easy to integrate tools to help get you there quickly and easily. Here are some examples:
After you’ve done all these steps, it’s time to check the accessibility of your website and there are several tools you can use:
WAVE Chrome: This plugin lets you analyse web content for accessibility issues directly in a browser. This means no information is sent to the WAVE server and you have secure accessibility reporting.
Webaccessibility.com: This tool will provide an indication of whether the website meets WCAG 2.1 standards.
Colour Contrast Checker: This tool helps with checking colour on all web pages. It analyses how dark and bright colours appear on screen and is good for checking text.
Accessibilitychecker.org: This website is great for providing an overview of all website accessibility considerations.
No matter your industry, website accessibility can’t be overlooked. By implementing the steps that are outlined you’ll be in a strong position to ensure the best possible experience for users from all walks of life.
At Made Simple Media, we specialise in designing websites that meet WCAG accessibly guidelines. We’re here to make digital marketing and web design services simple.
Get in touch today and we’ll be happy to help.
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