Inclusion matters. 5 ways to make your website more accessible

Web accessibility. You might’ve heard the term before or maybe you have no idea what it means. Either way, it’s an important thing to think about when building your website. Read on to learn more about what it is and find out what you can do to make your site a little more inclusive.

What is Web Accessibility? 

Web accessibility means making your website content and multimedia accessible to people with disabilities ensuring that people who have barriers to access it can do so. Disabled Individuals can include those with a physical, mental, cognitive and or developmental disability.

With these individuals in mind you should design and build your website in a way that will provide everyone with as equal an experience as possible when they visit your site.

*UPDATE*

I read an article that pushed my thinking a bit further in regards to who web accessibility is for. Web Accessibility has always been presented to me as something aimed towards individuals with the “stereotypical conditions” mentioned above. But it’s more than this because accessibility affects all users. Individuals with temporary or conditional disabilities such as aging, slow internet connection, arthritis, sun glare, or even a broken arm are all affected. Building with accessibility in mind means building for these potential temporary or conditional stress cases aswell.

Why is it Important?  

Accessibility should be prioritized for visitors that come to your site. Not all your visitors are the same and some have special needs. Everyone should have an equal user experience, or as close as possible.

For users navigating your website with assistive technologies, adding context to images and links helps them better understand the content on your web page. For older visitors who might have arthritis or other mobility issues, ensuring that they can tab through important content is also essential.

Here are five basic things you can do (and keep in mind) to make your website more inclusive for all visitors.

Provide alternatives to audio and video content. If your web content regularly includes audio and video content, you should provide subtitles so screen readers (a software program that reads text on a website out loud) can read them. This is especially urgent if you’re producing the bulk of your own video and audio content. If you don’t include subtitles you could be completely excluding the disabled demographic from accessing your content. Making a transcription of the audio or video available is an incredibly helpful resource for your visitors.

Don’t rely on colour alone to convey your message. Colors should not be necessary to understand the content and its current state. For example, don’t highlight errors just with red text. Add a supplementary icon. If colour was removed from the screen and your website could only be viewed in black and white the message should be equally understandable. Proper colour contrast is important and will assist you in making your page as visually usable as possible to individuals with visual impairments.

Ensure there is a tab key alternative to mouse clicks. This simply means that your visitors should be able to tab through your website content in a logical way in the absence of a mouse. Some visitors may not be able to use a mouse or trackpad. These people should be able to access content through the use of a keyboard by pressing the tab or arrow keys. The tab order should match the visual order, so keyboard users are able to logically navigate through site content and not get confused.

Include alt tags for images. Alt tags (also called alt text or alternative text) is the written copy that shows ups in place of an image if it fails to load on a website. For someone who has a visual impairment and uses a screen reader, the alt tags are read aloud and are the only way a user knows what the image is. You should take alt tags seriously and use them as an opportunity to describe the image as accurately as you possibly can. For example, if it’s a photo of a girl on a beach drinking use the alt text “girl on a Negril beach drinking coconut water”). Visually impaired users will love you for this.

Use descriptive links. Oh man, the infamous “click here”. Avoid describing links this way. When embedding a link in a post, it’s more useful to describe the link based on what it’s linking to. For example, it’s better to write out, “Learn more about our sustainability efforts by reading our 2018 Sustainability Report” instead of just “Click Here”. Users can then know exactly where they are going when they click on the link. Also, try to stylistically differentiate your links with an underline or by using a different colour so that there is a colour contrast between hyperlinked text and regular text. That way, colorblind users will able to find a link immediately without having to hover over it with their cursors.

These are just some basic tips you can apply when building your website to make it more accessible. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it does provide a starting point. There is a lot more that can and should be done to truly make your website accessible according to WCAG standards.

I hope this was helpful to you and you learned something new about how you can improve your website to make it more inclusive for everyone.