Accessibility refers to the experience provided by your website to the people with visual impairments, or that may be grappling with other disabilities.
Research shows that 25% of adults in the U.S. live with a disability, and that many of them use screen readers when browsing the web. So, making sure that these people can easily navigate your website is important. It’s not just good for your business and legal standing – it’s also just the right thing to do!
Unfortunately, many website owners and designers don’t consider the proper website accessibility standards when building their websites. That, or they just don’t know what measures they need to take to make their websites accessible.
That’s why in this article, we’ll walk you through the best practices of website accessibility – all of which you can start implementing right away.
7 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible
An alt text (also known as an alt attribute or alt tag) is an HTML attribute associated with an image, and its value is a phrase or short description of the image. For example:
It acts as a replacement for the image in case the image fails to load. It’s also used by screen readers and search engine bots to understand the content of the photo.
Adding an alt text with your image ensures that the people and search engine crawlers who can’t see the image can still get a sense of what is depicted by it. So make sure to describe each image you add online with vivid details using the alt text.
You don’t necessarily need to know HTML to add alt texts to your images, either. If you’re using a modern CMS (content management system) or website builder, you’ll usually get the option to add an alt text in the image settings, whenever you upload visual elements.
There are many types of vision impairments – such as diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, and cataract – which cause those with them to experience poor sensitivity to color contrasts.
A study of a million websites shows that low contrast is the most common reason (86.3%) for accessibility failures.
Image Source: WebAIM
Against that backdrop, you’ll need to make sure that the colors you use on your website are not too similar, and are creating enough contrast to be easily distinguishable from one another.
The most essential aspect of this is to make your text easy to read. It should be in such a color that it clearly stands out from the background color. You could either use a dark color with a light background, or vice versa.
The following image, for example, is difficult to read. The colors bleeding into each other, and put an uncomfortable level of strain on the eyes.
Image Source: Wikipedia
This example, by contrast, has a healthy contrast – which makes it far easier to read:
Another crucial factor when it comes to website accessibility is structuring your content with different levels of headings (H1, H2, H3, and so on), in order to establish a logical hierarchy. This makes your content easy to read and digest. Additionally, headings and subheadings help screen readers make sense of your pages, by providing in-page navigation.
There should only be one H1 tag on your page – that’s supposed to be your main page title. Use H2s for each subheading, and nest further subheadings below in the form of H3s, followed by H4s, and so on. For example:
- [H2] Gather Ingredients
- [H3] Tea Leaves
- [H3] Sugar
- [H3] Pot
- [H2] Boiling with Water
- [H3] Boil Water in Pot
- [H3] Add Tea Leaves and Sugar
- [H3] Let it Boil for 5 Minutes
[H2] Serve Hot
Similar to alt texts, you don’t need to be an HTML pro to add header tags to your content. Most modern CMS and website builders have this setting in their built-in content editor.
When it comes to accessibility, every little thing matters. And a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is no exception. This is the address of the webpage you use to access it from your browser. For example, here’s the URL for one of the pages on our website:
From this URL, you can probably guess that the page is about building websites. As such, a descriptive URL is important because it provides context to people and devices – including screen readers, the blind, and people with visual impairments.
If you’re building a website with your own custom domain and a flexible content management system, you’ll have full control over your URL. In WordPress, for instance, you can set a URL when editing a post or page.
As you can guess, it’s hard for people with poor vision to read small text sizes. That’s why it’s important to use an appropriate font size for your website. Large fonts and CTA buttons – aside from making your content more accessible across the board – are also good for conversions.
If possible, you should also create an alternative style sheet for people with disabilities, which they can activate from your website.
According to WHO, 217 million people globally suffer from moderate to severe vision impairment. Users who are blind or visually impaired cannot use a mouse to navigate your website, and instead will typically use Braille keyboards to browse.
Don’t make navigation a challenge for your users with vision difficulties – instead, ensure you’ve incorporated keyboard navigation into your website. What this means is that users should be able to access key elements of your website just from the keyboard. These include:
- Menu items
- Anchor texts
- Form fields
- CTAs and other buttons
- Dialog boxes
Essentially, users shouldn’t need a mouse to get to these components of your site. So how can you ensure this? First of all, use a CMS or website builder with accessibility features built-in. To do this, it’s worth checking its documentation to see if it supports building websites that are fully navigable by keyboard.
Also, when you use a third-party widget or plugin – such as a form-building extension – make sure that the developers of the plugin have taken accessibility into account.
Videos, audio, and other multimedia elements are essential to provide a high level of user experience, and boost engagement on your website.
But different users may have different needs, based on the disabilities they have. For instance, people with visual impairments may not read text or view images, but they can listen to audio. And deaf users can obviously watch a video, but can’t hear any sounds from it.
With that in mind, it’s best to provide as many ways as possible for visitors to understand your content. This includes writing video and audio transcripts for your multimedia embeds, or giving users the option to listen to the text instead of reading it.
Also, it’s better to use an accessible multimedia player to stream your audio and video files. Modern players based on HTML5 are more likely to incorporate accessibility into their user experience – so we’d recommend checking them out as a first port of call.
There are a number of tools and resources available to carry out a quick audit of your website for accessibility. Start with a basic list of easy checks put together by the W3C. It’ll help you identify the most common problems, such as photos without alt-text, missing headings, and inappropriate color contrast.
There are millions of people globally who need the web to be accessible. If you don’t put the necessary efforts into optimizing your website as per their needs, then you could end up being part of the problem. These days, building a website isn’t all that difficult – and, as we discussed above, making your website accessible doesn’t have to be, either. You have plenty of tips and tools at your disposal – so go deploy them!
7 Ways to Make Your Website Accessible
- Add Alt Texts to Images
- Pick Your Colors Wisely
- Use Headings to Structure Content
- Ensure Descriptive URLs
- Avoid Small Font Sizes
- Allow Keyboard Navigation
- Make Multimedia Accessible
Take these steps to make your site welcoming to all types of visitors, regardless of their medical condition. After all, people with disabilities spend a half-trillion dollars per year. But, regardless of whether they’re your potential customers or not, people with disabilities are a vitally important part of the big community we call the world wide web. Whatever good you spread in the world, it’ll always find a way to come back – so get going!