How To Make Your Website More Accessible
Over one billion people, 15% of the world’s population, live with at least one disability. With that number, one would think the rest of the world would consider and carry them along with every design, system, infrastructure, and creation, but that’s not the case. The world really isn’t as accessible as we’d think it is. People who use wheelchairs still struggle to find a path designed for them to get into public spaces and buildings. People with a hearing disability find themselves in an elevator emergency and suddenly have to depend on an automated voice assistant for help.
The world has been conditioned to brush over people with disabilities for eons, so it’s no surprise that websites are also designed with a disregard for them. Thankfully, website designers are beginning to learn more about making websites accessible to everyone. Now, let’s talk about how you can improve your website accessibility to cater to customers with disabilities.
Use Alt Text For Images
Sometimes, it feels like an image does a better job communicating an idea than words, after all, they say a picture is worth more than a thousand words. However, adding images to your web content without considering people with visual impairment makes your website inaccessible to some customers.
Thankfully, technology has improved so much over the years that you can give visually impaired people a good idea of the content on your website images. Always include alt text to images and infographics, describing the content of the images. People with visual impairment rely on screen readers and refreshable braille readers to access images on websites. However, both assistive technologies can’t access images without the help of alt text. Hence, you need to include alt text — you can even go above and beyond by adding a “longdesc tag” for detailed descriptions.
You should also describe the text on your images because screen readers can’t read them either.
Be Descriptive With Naming Your URLs
Similar to images, visually-impaired people struggle with accessing website links with random words and letters. You have to give the screen reader something descriptive and meaningful to work with when naming your URLs. Making your links descriptive means considering the context of each link. For example, if the content on a webpage is about tips for improving domain authority, the webpage URL should describe the content. Here’s an example of a descriptive URL https://makdigitaldesign.com/management/effective-tips-top-marketers-use-to-improve-domain-authority/.
Using descriptive links goes beyond webpage URLs; you should also be descriptive with hyperlinks. Instead of using a generic “click here” as the anchor text for the hyperlinks in your web content, describe the context of the links. For example, if you want potential customers to sign up to stand a chance to win amazing deals, you can use “to win amazing deals, sign up on this page.”
Other practices to make your URLs more accessible;
- Use design elements such as distinct font color and underline
- Make your links cover a wide range so that readers can click on them with ease
- Avoid adding links to images that don’t have alt text
Optimize For Contrast Sensitivity
The topic of color is dicey because it affects two opposing groups. First, many visually impaired people struggle to see poor color designs on websites, whether that’s font colors that almost blend with the background or tinny fonts. Additionally, about eight percent of the world’s population has a visual impairment that makes it hard to see red-green colors. On the other hand, many people with learning disabilities comprehend better when web content is organized with different colors.
The solution is to use multiple colors with care. Avoid using green on red backgrounds and red on green backgrounds. While black and white color combination has the best contrast, you can also use combinations such as yellow on black, black on yellow, and yellow on blue. Ensure to add functionality that will allow people to increase and reduce contrast. Finally, use whitespace.
Design For Keyboard Navigation
Navigation is a big part of website accessibility that affects people with varying disabilities from visual to mobility. Two categories of people particularly rely on keyboard navigation. Many people with mobility disabilities find it difficult to use the mouse or trackpad. While visually impaired people can access your web content using assistive technologies, assistive technologies rely on meaningful web content structure to be fully functional.
The solution is to design and organize your web content to support complete keyboard navigation, including all interactive elements on your web pages. Structure your web content so that people can access all the content on your website using only the “tab” or “arrow” keys or other devices such as a mouth stick.
Use anchor links with meaningful texts to break up long pages in a logical order. Always include a “skip to main content” element at the top of your web pages to reduce keyboard burden for users who have to tab through your web content. Additionally, avoid using design elements that are only functional when users hover with a mouse or trackpad.
Use ARIA Roles When Absolutely Necessary
Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) is a technical specification that allows you to add information to dynamic web content to make it more accessible. Here’s the kicker, ARIA roles do nothing for keyboard-only users, but it makes web content more accessible to users who rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers. Hence, only use ARIA roles if HTML doesn’t suffice.
Talk to your website developer about how you can use ARIA roles to increase website accessibility.
Use Tables Only When Necessary
Before using a table in your web content, ask yourself, can CSS achieve the same goal? If the answer is yes, use CSS instead. While most people may not have trouble accessing and understanding every table on your web pages, it is frustrating for people who use screen readers. Screen readers always inform users when it finds a table. It tells them how many rows and columns are in the table, and reads the table content in a tabular order, which may not correspond with the visual order of the content.
Use tables only when you want to share tabular data. Ensure to use headers for the rows and columns, and HTML5 table captions to give additional information to help disabled users understand the context of the table better.
Include Captions, Subtitles, and Transcriptions
You can increase website accessibility by adding captions, subtitles, and transcriptions to your multimedia content. People with hearing disabilities rely on captions, subtitles, and transcriptions to access audio content. You can also add audio descriptions to visual-only multimedia content to carry along people with visual disabilities.
Use HTML5 players to make multimedia content more accessible to people with varying disabilities, including ADHD.
To recap, these seven practices can increase website accessibility
- Use Alt Text For Images
- Be Descriptive With Naming Your URLs
- Optimize For Contrast Sensitivity
- Design For Keyboard Navigation
- Use ARIA Roles When Absolutely Necessary
- Use Tables Only When Necessary
- Include Captions, Subtitles, and Transcriptions