We live in a world where we rely on the internet for nearly everything we do. From online shopping and keeping in touch with friends to managing our banking and bills.
But while the internet is an ever-present resource that makes life easier for most of us, many people living with a disability are missing out on this essential service.
Accessibility in web design means making your website usable to as many people as possible. In this blog post, we’ll look at why this is important, and outline eight ways that you can make sure that your website and app can be used by everyone.
There are lots of disabilities that could limit a person’s ability to use the internet, for example:
- A visual impairment like blindness, colour blindness or limited vision
- Difficulty grasping objects (this is often a problem for elderly people)
- Cognitive disabilities such as autism
Computer assistive technologies, like screen readers or special keyboards to help people, but often these are not enough. It’s up to businesses and web designers to make sure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.
Accessibility isn’t just a ‘nice to have’
Making your website accessible is the right thing to do, and there’s also an excellent business case for implementing accessibility best practises.
Google likes it
With the rollout of Google’s Core Vitals update, there is an increasing focus on making websites more usable. In fact, Google has said:
“Everyone should be able to access and enjoy the web. We’re committed to making that a reality.”
And while accessibility is not an SEO ranking factor (yet!), some of the elements that make a website accessible are, like using alt tags and proper headings.
In some countries, accessibility is even required by law, like the USA. In the UK, Canada and EU anti-discrimination policies state that websites should accommodate all users.
The World Wide Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) address the concern for accessible website design and make recommendations for what an accessible website should be like, you can read more about it on their website.
It will make your website better for everyone
Making your website accessible to people with disabilities will also make it work better for other users too and improve your UX. It makes a big difference to people using mobile and those with slow internet connections. It’s about removing barriers that could prevent people from doing business with you!
Eight ways to make sure your website is accessible
1. Don’t rely on colour to convey information
Many people with a visual impairment have trouble distinguishing one colour from another, so don’t use colour as the only visual tool to convey information. For example, don’t just rely on the colour red to show warning messages, use a clear symbol too.
2. Ensure there is a colour contrast between the text and background
The colour contrast between your text and the background colour it sits on can have a dramatic impact on the legibility of your site.
It’s also important to give the user the ability to adjust the background and foreground colour of the text to meet their own needs.
3. Give your images alt tags
For people who can’t see an image, alt tags are an alternative text option that helps them understand what is on a web page. Text reading software will read out the alt tag, so you must provide more than a one-word description!
It’s also important not to use text for images – keep any text elements separate so that they can be picked up by screen readers.
4. Keep your navigation predictable
People with disabilities depend on things being predictable.
This doesn’t mean your website can’t be innovative, you just need to make sure that each page on your website follows the same navigation pattern.
Having menus in the same location and repeating items in the same order. Additionally, keeping your text links and headings in the same format will help people browse more easily.
5. Form fields
Forms are an integral part of most websites, and today’s style leans towards a more simple and minimalistic aesthetic.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always great for accessibility. A lack of clearly defined borders makes the input fields difficult to see and the lack of visible cues makes it harder for people with cognitive disabilities to understand what bits they need to fill in.
To improve the accessibility of a form, make sure that the fields are clearly defined with either borders or contrasting backgrounds. You should also label each field, giving people details about what information is needed.
6. Make sure it’s keyboard friendly
Some people with mobility problems will not be able to use a mouse to navigate a website, and instead, use the tab button to scroll through.
This can cause a frustrating browsing experience if the page is not set up with clear focus states. ‘Focus states’ or ‘focus indicators’ highlight where the user is on the page and communicate when they have highlighted any interactive element on a page.
Make sure that your web design has usable focus states!
7. Make your text bold and clear
Clear text will bring a clear visual hierarchy to the information on your website, and make it much easier for people to browse quickly.
For example, the top heading should have an h1 tag, with everything else nesting below. Alongside this, the typography should be easy to read and your web copy should be as clear and concise as possible with no large blocks of text.
8. Audit your site
As your website grows, you must keep checking how accessible it is!
A regular audit of things like your image alt tags, navigation and colour contrast will make sure that you don’t miss anything that could cause issues for a disabled user.
This can be time-consuming if you have a large website, so you could use an auditing tool like Google Chrome’s WAVE, which will find spots in your code where you’re missing key accessibility features.
Website accessibility is quite easy to implement, especially if it’s done at the initial design stage. But it can also be done retrospectively if necessary!
We’ve listed just some of the ways to make your website accessible and meet the WCAG best practice guidelines. There are loads of other things you can do to make it even better.
If you’d like to learn more, get in touch!