How and why you should make sure you have an accessible website

A collection of signs depicting different types of disabilities

 
About 61 million Americans have some sort of disability that they are living with. But many websites are not accessible, just because it’s not on a traditional website checklist. Is it responsive? Yes. Is it easy to navigate? Yes. Is it easy for someone with a disability to navigate? Probably not.  

 
What makes a website accessible? How can you make sure your website available to a wide range of people? 
 

Make it keyboard friendly 

One of the easiest ways of making your website accessible is by allowing the website to be navigated by using a keyboard. A lot of assistive technology rely only on keyboards to allow their users to navigate a website. People using these are then relying on the arrow keys in order to scroll and the tab button in order to select links or navigate your website. Having this integrated on your website not only opens you up to more business but shows people that your company is conscious about the needs of their customers. 

An easy way to check if your entire website is accessible is to try and navigate all the pages by only using tab, enter, and the arrow keys. 

 

Have Alt text and captions 

Alt text is used in a few ways, you’ve probably noticed it when a picture didn’t load on a website. But it is also used for screen readers in order to let people know what the image is if they are not able to see it. It’s also a good way to improve your websites SEO giving the engines a better crawl of your website. Using descriptive summaries of images is a great way to give context to users who would otherwise miss it whether it’s due to a disability or error loading and it can only be a benefit to you. 

 

Consider your colors 

Color blindness is not the only issue you face with using unique color schemes, you also have a population of people who perceive color differently. Maybe you remember the huge debate a few years ago when people were debating on if the dress was white and gold or blue and black? This is common, so you want to make sure the colors you’re picking for backgrounds and text are different enough that it won’t just melt into one hue. For example, having a dark navy background with stark white text so it pops or having a light purple background with dark purple/blue text that will also stand out. 

 

Structure your content 

Have you ever been on a website with a homepage that just goes on forever and really doesn’t seem structured? It can be confusing and difficult to digest. By having headers in place you’re not only making it easier to understand and get through, but also making it easier for screen readers. Which in turn makes it easier to navigate your web pages and know the correct order to provide the information for the user. 

 

Take extra time on forms 

Forms are sometimes tricky even for the best of us, sometimes their labeling can be confusing. But it’s even worse when you are relying on a special software to interpret it for you or have difficulty reading it. 
You should also keep in mind that some people filling these out may be color blind so if you have a required field that is colored to distinguish it from the others you may be confusing part of your audience. Instead you should use something like an asterisk which is standard with most forms. 

 

Enable resizable text 

Some of the screen reading software will allow its users to resize the text on your website, but if your website is not supportive it can break the design and make it impossible to read. One way to leave room for this is to not use absolutes when dictating the sizes of things on your website, but to give it a range so it can scale based on the screen size. By testing the zoom level on your browser you’ll be able to see how your website changes and whether it would be difficult for someone with a vision impairment to easily navigate your site with it zoomed. 

 

Don’t have automatic media or navigation  

There is nothing more annoying than going onto a website and being assaulted with unexpected media. It was true with Myspace may it rest in peace, and it’s still true now. It’s especially alarming and inconvenient with people who are using an accessibility software because they may not be able to see the video or media that is playing. It’s frightening to open something up expecting the silence of a website and instead having a sound play unexpectedly. Instead give the visitor the option of clicking into the video so that it is on their terms and you are not driving away potential customers because you scared them off.  

Also keep in mind that carousels and self-moving sliders can be frustrating for people who need, more time to absorb the information you are giving them. Instead you could opt for a slide show that relies on the user clicking or tabbing to the next image as they are ready.  

 

Making an inclusive website is such an easy thing to do and there is really no reason not to. You’re opening yourself up to a new audience, one you might have missed out on and opening yourself up to an increase of traffic.  

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