Your website should be accessible to all no matter their abilities or their situation. Not only is ensuring your website is accessible good practice, but it can be required by law in some parts of the world.
Why does my website need to be accessible?
Technical Why does my website need to be accessible?
The key point for accessibility is making a website accessible to everyone.
What is Accessibility?
In practice, accessibility is ensuring that your website is accessible for all users no matter their situation. This applies to users with a variety of disabilities.
Just as many supermarkets do now, their services are accessible to all people. Most supermarkets have accessible entrances with ramps, lifts, or flat escalators. They also offer support for anyone with visual or hearing impairments at the checkout. The supermarkets will also have disabled toilets and disabled parking bays. These measures have been implemented to make visiting the supermarket an option for all people, no matter their abilities.
This is the same for websites. They should be accessible to all no matter their abilities or their situation. Not only is ensuring your website is accessible good practice, but it can be required by law in some parts of the world.
What disabilities should be considered when considering accessibility?
Disabilities that should be considered should relate to how a user would interact with a website. For example, viewing a website, listening to content, navigating through the website, and using laptop equipment.
But, just as every person is unique, so too are individuals’ permanent disabilities and to what extent these affect them. It’s vital to remember that what could be considered accessible for someone with a mild level of a certain disability, would not be considered accessible for another who has a moderate or severe level of the same disability.
The main types of disabilities to consider are:
Temporary disabilities should also be considered when looking at your website’s level of accessibility. These may not affect an individual for the rest of their lives, yet they will affect their current circumstances and abilities. For example, if a person has broken their arm, if they have a concussion or if they have temporary disabilities following a stroke or surgery.
These are not disabilities as explained above, which relate to the individual’s body. But rather, these disabilities relate to the inability to do certain things because of your situation. This could include, not owning a computer mouse, having a slow internet connection, and only being able to access the internet on a mobile device.
How to make a website accessible?
Making a website accessible should be a consideration from the initial design, right the way through to the development of the site. Ensuring that this is a focus and boxes are ticked will ensure that a site passed accessibility checks when it comes to launching a website. In turn, this will aid rankings and traffic, as search engines will identify your website as accessible to all.
Testing your site throughout the project will help to ensure you’re creating an accessible website, and that if any, issues are highlighted as early on as possible.
The use of alt tags allows screen readers to describe the images on a website. This is particularly helpful to those with a visual impairment. Meaning you can use an image to support your content, even if it isn’t visible for every user. The ‘alt’ text can be read aloud to the user in the browser. Alt tags also aid Google images to service images for search terms too.
Making a website keyboard navigational means you can completely remove the need for a mouse. Allowing the user to interact with every element of a website, no matter it’s positioning. The keyboard can replicate hover effects too, in order to reach content that would otherwise be easily accesuble when using a mouse.
Title tags help to break up content into subsections. This is useful for people with cognitive impairments. Implementing a hierarchy of content, also assists screen readers in identifying what content belongs to different sections. Helping to improve page navigation as you can assign subtitles to certain sections of content.
This allows websites to pass through information on products, ad organisations at the search engine result level. This could include price, star ratings, stock levels, or even recipe cook time. These provide users with more information, in order to make a decision. This is particularly useful or users who use screen readers. As hey are provided with information early on, without having to scroll through pages. Extra information provides comfort when clicking on a webpage that your questions or needs will be met.
Consider Colour and Design
Google bots often highlight colour and design as an issue for accessibility. This can be because they deem the content as not legible. It’s all about contrast ratios between elements on the site. For example, if you have a button with a yellow background, with white text, search engines would highlight this as an issue. A better option would be a button with a yellow background, with black text. This will ensure that the text is readable for everyone.
Descriptive Link Name
This aids content creators and developers to communicate information about the link. Screen readers will be able to read the link text & users will understand where the link goes to. Terms like ‘read more’ and ‘find out more’ can be seen as ambiguous. If users use a screen reader, they would want to know more about the page being linked to. For example ‘explore our range of Christmas Candles’.
Create Accessible Forms
Placeholders cannot be picked up by screen readers. Using labels for the inputs in the form help users with visual impairments to fill out the correct fields when filling out a form. This ensures that you don’t lose out on valuable potential leads. As these minor changes could mean that your forms are inaccessible for disbaled users.
ARIA roles allow for the manipulation of content on the page, to serve the content up with how they want to be displayed. For example, if you have social media icons in your header, you can add an ARIA hidden attribute to these. This will tell the screen reader to skip past these, without reading the content.
Avoid HTML Tables
HTML tables are structured in a way so you read left to right. However, screen readers have a hard time understanding what data is represented and how this data relates to other rows.
Dynamic content enables the user to choose font sizes and background colours. This could prove helpful for users who are visually impaired, or for users with dyslexia. These small features make a big difference when viewing websites that are heavily content-based. Implementing these small changes helps to retain users. By presenting a site that has the tools users need to answer questions, for everyone.
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