What Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed, and edited, generally, all users have equal access to information and functionality.
Why Is Accessibility Important?
There are many reasons why accessibility is essential. Here are just a few:
01. To Reach a Larger Audience
By making your website accessible, you are opening it up to a larger audience. There are over 56.7 million people with disabilities in the United States alone. That’s a huge potential market that you could be missing out on if your website is not accessible.
02. To Comply with the Law
In many countries, website accessibility is required by law. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including websites. If your website is not accessible, you could be at risk of legal action.
03. To Avoid Costly Lawsuits
If your website is not accessible, you could be sued. In 2018, Domino’s Pizza was ordered to pay $1 million to a blind man in the United States after he filed a lawsuit claiming that the company’s website and mobile app were not accessible to him. While this may be an extreme case, it highlights the potential financial risk of not making your website accessible.
04. To Improve SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) optimizes a website to rank higher in search engine results. One crucial factor in SEO is website accessibility. If your website is not accessible, it will be harder for people to find it when searching online. This can lead to less traffic and fewer customers.
For example, suppose your website is not accessible to people with disabilities. In that case, it will not show up in results for searches made using screen reader software. This is because screen readers cannot access websites that are not correctly coded.
05. To Enhance the User Experience
Accessibility can improve the user experience for everyone, not just people with disabilities. For example, suppose your website is accessible to people with low vision. In that case, it will also be easier to read for people with normal vision. Or your website is accessible to people with hearing impairments. In that case, it will also be easier to use for people without hearing impairments.
06. To Make Your Website Easier to Use
An accessible website is a usable website. If your website is accessible, it will be easier for people to use, regardless of their ability level. This can lead to better customer satisfaction and fewer support requests.
For instance, if your website is accessible to people with cognitive disabilities, it will also be easier to use for people without cognitive disabilities. An accessible website is typically designed to be easy to understand.
07. To Make Your Website More resilient
An accessible website is a more resilient website. If your website is accessible, it will be easier to update and maintain. This can save you time and money in the long run.
Suppose you want to change the color of your website. If your site is not accessible, you would need to manually update the code for each page. However, if your site is accessible, you can change the color in one place, and it will be updated automatically across all of the pages on your website.
08. To Support Assistive Technologies
People with disabilities often rely on assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to access the web. If your website is not accessible, these technologies may not be able to interpret your content correctly. This can make it difficult or even impossible for some people to use your website.
09. To Increase Sales
An accessible website can lead to increased sales. For example, suppose your website is accessible to people with disabilities. In that case, they will be able to purchase your products and services. This can help to grow your business and increase your profits.
Imagine if 15% of the world’s population, about a billion people, could not access your website. That would be a lot of potential customers that you would be missing out on.
10. To Improve Customer Service
An accessible website can also lead to improved customer service. If your website is accessible, you will be able to provide a better experience for all of your customers. This can lead to more repeat business and positive word-of-mouth.
11. To Make a Positive Impact
Last but not least, an accessible website can make a positive impact on society. By making your website accessible, you are helping to break down barriers for people with disabilities. This can lead to a more inclusive society where everyone can participate and thrive.
How To Make a Website More Accessible?
There are many ways to make a website more accessible. Here are some of the most effective:
01. Use Alternative Text
Alternative text is a short description of an image that is displayed if the image cannot be seen. This is important for people who are blind or have low vision, as they will not be able to see the images on your website.
Alternative text can help by:
- Describing the purpose of an image: For example, “A picture of a cat.”
- Giving additional information about an image: For example, “A black and white cat with green eyes.”
- Making an image more accessible to people with low vision: For example, using a larger font size or adding contrast.
02. Add Captions and Transcripts
Captions are a text version of the audio that is played on a website. They are essential for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as they will not be able to listen to the audio. Transcripts are a text version of the video that is played on a website. They are essential for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as they will not be able to listen to the video.
03. Use Headings and Lists
Headings and lists are a way to organize content on a website. They are essential for people who have difficulty reading, as they will be able to find the information they are looking for more easily.
04. Use Simple Language
Use simple, easy-to-understand language on your website. This will make it easier for everyone to understand your content, regardless of their reading level.
05. Use High Contrast Colors
Use high contrast colors on your website to make the text easier to read. For instance, you could use a black background with white text. This is important for people with low vision, as they will be able to see the text more easily.
06. Make Links Underlined
Make sure that all of the links on your website are underlined. This will make them easier to see and click on, which is vital for people with low vision.
07. Use Descriptive Link Text
Use descriptive link text so that people will know where the link will take them. For instance, instead of using “click here,” you could use “learn more about website accessibility.”
08. Avoid Auto-Playing Audio and Video
Avoid auto-playing audio and video on your website. This can be disruptive for all users, but it can be especially difficult for people with hearing impairments.
09. Provide Text Equivalents for Non-Text Content
Provide text equivalents for all non-text content on your website. This includes things like images, audio, and video. This is important for people who are blind or have low vision, as they will not be able to see the non-text content.
10. Use Accessible Forms
Use accessible forms on your website. This means that the form should be easy to use and understand, and it should be able to be completed by people with disabilities.
11. Test Your Website
Test your website regularly to make sure that it is accessible. This includes testing for things like alternative text, captions, and transcripts. If you find that your website is not accessible, make the necessary changes to fix the issue.
Making your website accessible is essential for many reasons. By following the tips above, you can ensure that your site is accessible to everyone.
How Do You Know If a Website Is Accessible?
There are a few ways to test if a website is accessible. Some of the most common methods include:
- Use a screen reader: A screen reader is a software program that aloud reads the text on a website. This is an excellent way to test if the alternative text and other text equivalents are working correctly.
- Try using a keyboard: Try navigating around the website using only a keyboard. This will help you see if the website is usable for people who cannot use a mouse.
- Use a contrast checker: A contrast checker is a tool that will help you to see if the colors on a website are high enough contrast. This is important for people with low vision.
- Test the forms: Try completing all of the forms on a website. This will help you see if the forms are accessible for people with disabilities.
- Check the videos: Try watching all of the videos on a website. This will help you see if the videos have transcripts and are appropriately captioned.
What Is the Purpose of Accessibility?
The purpose of accessibility is to ensure that people with disabilities can use a website. This includes people who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, or have a physical disability. By making your website accessible, you open up your site to a larger audience.
What Are Some Accessibility Barriers?
Many accessibility barriers can make it difficult for people with disabilities to use a website. Some of the most common barriers include:
- Text that is not easy to read: When the text on a website is not easy to read, it can be challenging for people with low vision to use it.
- Links that are not underlined: If the links on a website are not underlined, they can be challenging for people with low vision to see and click on.
- Auto-playing audio and video: Auto-playing audio and video can be disruptive for all users. But it can be especially difficult for people with hearing impairments.
- Forms that are not accessible: If the forms on a website are not accessible, they can be very difficult for people with disabilities to use.
- Videos that are not captioned: If the videos on a website are not captioned, they can be challenging for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand.
What Are Some Accessibility Guidelines?
Many accessibility guidelines can help you make sure that your website is accessible. Some of the most common guidelines include:
- The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): These guidelines were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They provide detailed instructions on making web content more accessible.
- The Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) specification: This specification includes additional markup that can be used to improve the accessibility of web applications.
- The Section 508 standards: These standards are specifically for US federal government websites. They require that all website content be accessible to people with disabilities.
- The Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) X 8341: This standard includes guidelines for both web accessibility and overall user experience.
How Do I Make an Accessible Design?
When you are designing an accessible website, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some of the most important considerations include:
- Use clear and simple language: The text on your website should be easy to read and understand. Use plain language and avoid using jargon.
- Make your website navigable: Your website should be easy to navigate, even for users who are using a screen-reader or other assistive technology. Use clear and descriptive labels for your links and pages.
- Provide alternate versions of text and images: Besides providing text alternatives for images, you should also provide text transcripts for audio and video content.
- Design for all users: When designing your website, keep in mind that some users may have low vision, blindness, hearing loss, or other disabilities. Make sure your design is accessible to all users.
- Test your design: Before you launch your website, test it out with various users to make sure it is accessible.
Principles of Accessibility
There are four main principles of accessibility:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that text must be readable, images must be visible, and audio and video content must be accessible.
- Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to use all features of your website, including buttons, links, and form elements.
- Understandable: Information and the operation of user interface components must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand your content and how to use your website.
- Robust: Content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that your content must be well-coded so that the screen reader and other assistive technologies can interpret it.
To conclude, accessibility is vital for both website owners and their users. By making your website accessible, you open up your site to a larger audience, including people with disabilities. Accessibility also makes your website easier to use, resulting in a better user experience for all of your visitors.
When you are designing an accessible website, keep in mind the four principles of accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. By following these principles, you can create an accessible website that is usable for all users.
Need Help with Accessibility?
If you need help making your website more accessible, contact me. I’m a full-service digital marketing expert that specializes in creating accessible websites. I can help you design an accessible website that meets all the necessary guidelines and standards.
Get a free quote from me today to learn more about my services and how I can help you improve your website’s accessibility.