The internet is fundamentally designed to work for everyone, regardless of their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. If a website is poorly designed without considering the challenges people with disabilities face, communication is lost and interaction will suffer. This is where web accessibility plays such a crucial part but what does it mean and how can you make your website more accessible?
What Is Website Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to designing and developing websites, tools, and technologies so people with disabilities can use them more easily. The goal is to help people perceive, understand, navigate, and interact better with the web by contributing something themselves.
Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities affecting access to the Web. This includes auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and visual. However, website accessibility best practices can also help those without disabilities, for example:
- using mobile phones, smartwatches, smart TVs, and other devices with smaller screens and different input modes
- older individuals with changing abilities from ageing
- anyone with a “temporary disability” (broken hand, misplaced glasses or eye injury)
- people with “situational limitations” like being in bright sunlight or somewhere they cannot listen to audio
- people with a slow internet connection, or with limited and expensive bandwidth
Why Is Website Accessibility Important?
The Web is a vital resource for many reasons, from education and employment to government, commerce, healthcare and recreation among others. Websites MUST BE accessible to provide equal access and opportunities to people with diverse abilities.
Fact is, access to information and communications technologies is defined as “a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” (Source: UN CRPD). Companies across the world have been sued for not having more accessible sites so it’s in your best interest to make the necessary changes or face the consequences.
Recommended: ‘Making Online Public Services More Accessible’
How Do I Make My Website More Accessible?
By following the pointers on the list below, you will help screen-readers and similar devices understand the content. Have a look at this detailed article outlining 10 ways to improve your website accessibility.
- Have a keyboard-friendly website which means functional without a mouse
- Ensure that all content on the page is easily accessible, especially sites using dynamic content
- Add ALT text to all website images
- Choose your colours wisely and ideally set a dark colour against a light one
- Structure content properly using headings and subheadings
- Design forms for accessibility using a tool such as the Caldera Forms builder in WordPress
- Only use tables for tabular data
- Avoid using absolute units (pixels) to specify text size and rather use relative sizes
- Avoid automatic media and navigation, including carousels and sliders
- Create more accessible content by fully writing out acronyms, giving all your links unique, descriptive names and anchor text
Benefits Of Making Your Website More Accessible
The primary objective for any business owner is to generate website traffic to ultimately convert those into potential customers. The truth is, few brands take the necessary steps to ensure their website is accessible to everyone. However, they may change their minds if they knew just how powerful the benefits are of having an accessible website.
- Improved search optimisation
- Better overall user experience
- Position your brand as one that values inclusivity
- Reach a larger audience potentially representing big spending power
- Reduce your legal risk of a lawsuit
Your website should be welcoming to as many people as possible and should never exclude anyone. Not only will it help users but you will likely benefit from increased traffic and conversions. By making your website more accessible, you’re boosting your chances of people finding you in an online search.
How To Check Website Accessibility
Performing a website accessibility audit is an effective way to identify and resolve any existing issues with your website. This may include ineffective translation processes, choosing style over functionality, and failure in complying with governmental accessibility policies.
Web accessibility can be measured with the help of standards created by the W3C, known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Others have also developed their own guidelines but they all follow the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Guidelines. You can do a manual test or use one of several online tools listed below:
- WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
- AChecker – Accessibility Checker
- Cynthia Says
- Accessibility Valet
Website Accessibility Video Guide
We hope this article helps you get started but there is more to learn from our video guide. In case you missed it, Eric Cook, an award-winning web designer with WSI recently hosted a webinar highlighting the importance of website accessibility. All you need to do is visit this page, complete a short form and gain access to the video recording and PDF slides.
Need help with your online reputation management strategy or want to build significant brand trust and credibility online? WSI-eMarketing can help as we specialise in online reputation management, SEO, social media, PPC, content marketing and web development. Give us a call on 01453 542761 or request a free consultation.