How to Make Your Website Accessible in 2020 and Beyond: 5 Practical Tips
The internet has become an essential part of day-to-day life. We use it for work, play, shopping, socializing, accessing government information, banking, and more. And since Covid-19 has halted most of our lives, it has become even more integral. For the 20% of the population with one or more disabilities, however, accessing the web and all of the benefits that come with it can be incredibly challenging.
What is Web Accessibility?
To prevent users from being isolated from the internet, companies should be aware of web accessibility and learn how to maintain certain standards. Web accessibility covers both content and design features that enable users with impairments to navigate a site and understand its content in its entirety.
Disabilities that cause challenges for users include visual impairments, epilepsy, cognitive disabilities, and blindness, among many others. What’s more, increasing web accessibility assists users of your website that have temporary disabilities, situational limitations, and poor internet connections.
A robust approach to web accessibility can also protect your company from being sued for not meeting requirements. In the USA, the “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA) makes accessibility mandatory, and the push for regulations is occurring globally.
In this article, we’ll run through five practical tips to help you and your company to make your website fully accessible now and in the future.
1. Use Tools to Avoid Hefty Development Costs
Web accessibility covers a wide variety of elements, from visual content and language use to page layouts and PDFs. This can make meeting accessibility standards challenging. An excellent way to overcome this problem is by using a dedicated “plug and play” tool.
These apps are designed to analyze and adjust your web page’s current levels of accessibility. Using a ready-made tool saves development costs and is highly efficient. What’s more, because they monitor your site regularly, they’re also update-proof, which means your website will always be compliant.
The current market-leader is accessiBe, and its “Accessibility Interface” and “Artificial Intelligence” features are excellent examples of how compliance tools work. The “Accessibility Interface”, for example, provides users with a selection of profiles that can be customized to optimize their web experience, such as the “Visual Impairment Profile” and “Cognitive Disability Profile”. The adjustments available include display, content, orientation, and more. The “Artificial Intelligence” feature scans your web pages and uses its human-inspired analytics engine to improve your website’s accessibility.
2. Include Alt Tags on Images
Alternative text, which is included in “alt tags”, is a snippet of information coded into the HTML of a web page that describes an image. The image file name is the only text a web page will show if an alt tag isn’t present in the HTML. This information alone is often insufficient for disabled users attempting to understand an image as it doesn’t accurately or adequately explain the visual content.
It’s especially important to include alt tags on infographics, graphs, email images, and charts that contain data that’s vital for understanding written content. If an image is purely decorative, however, no alt text is necessary. To make content accessible on social media, use description boxes to explain images and infographics.
3. Ensure Your Site Can Be Navigated With a Keyboard
Keyboard navigation allows motor-impaired and visually-impaired users to operate your website. Instead of using a mouse or touchpad, it’s possible to utilize keyboard shortcuts that jump to specific elements, such as “M” for accessing menus and “B” for buttons. To keep things simple for users, the tab order of pages also should be logical.
4. Use ARIA Attributes
Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) are a group of attributes that are applied to page elements to make web applications and web content more accessible. ARIA attributes work by supplementing native HTML functionality, making page content and app widgets compatible with other technologies.
Checkboxes provide a notable example. Without ARIA attributes in a website’s CSS file, a screen reader won’t be able to report if a box is checked or not. Although ARIA doesn’t currently change an element’s inherent behaviour, it does amend the HTML to improve accessibility, and it’s good practice to incorporate ARIA into web development processes.
5. Conduct User Testing
Allowing users to test your website and provide you with feedback about what works and what doesn’t is an excellent way of ensuring that your website meets accessibility standards. User testing is a reliable and largely error-proof way of assessing the experiences disabled users are having when interacting with your web pages.
It’s important to note that users with the same types of disabilities may have different experiences, and, consequently, separate evaluations and adjustments will be needed. So it’s essential to account for a variety of users and look closely at all the feedback provided.
Despite many advances, web accessibility is still a significant issue, with over ninety per cent of web pages falling short of regulations. To ensure that all users can properly navigate and access your content, you should leverage all the opportunities available to increase your website’s accessibility. Simplifying the process with ready-to-use tools can reduce costs and get your website up to regulation standards quickly and efficiently. Audit your web page with a tool like accessiBe to streamline the transition to mandatory accessibility. You can also follow accessiBe on Twitter to stay abreast of regulatory updates.