Have you ever been to a party where everyone’s having fun except you?
Yes, that one party where you’re surrounded by people, yet alone. Remember how you were waiting for time to pass so that the agony could be over?
That’s exactly how some sets of people feel when they can’t carry out normal activities on websites like everyone else. And as we speak, 90% of websites are not accessible to people with disabilities. Sad.
Now, not only is it unethical and illegal (in some places) for businesses to have inaccessible websites, it is also not a great financial move. If your website is not accessibility-compliant, you’re ignoring a significant percentage of the population and leaving a lot of money on the table.
So, what’s all this buzz about accessibility? What makes a website accessible? Are there any rules and regulations guiding accessibility? What are the best practices for designing and developing an accessible website?
Don’t bat an eyelid. Okay, you just did. But hey, all answers to your questions are right here.
Let’s fetch them.
What is web accessibility
We all have our weaknesses, some through no fault of ours. Now, imagine being excluded from optimally experiencing technology simply because of our disabilities. Not fair, right? That’s why web accessibility is essential. It is the practice of ensuring websites and related technologies are designed and developed to be accessible to people with disabilities.
However, accessibility is not limited to people with disabilities. It also covers making websites accessible to people who use mobile devices and those with slow networks. Therefore, turning a blind eye to accessibility means losing customers who fall into these categories. Now, that’s some huge losses right there.
The first awareness you need about accessibility is to realize you’re not your user. You might use the internet a certain way, but remember millions use it in other ways, some with assistive technologies. This awareness is the first step in designing and developing accessible websites.
Next, you need to know the users who must be able to access your websites and other products. Some are listed below:
- Visually impaired people
- People with hearing impairments
- People with mobility disabilities
- Cognitively impaired people
Understanding accessibility is the first step in designing and developing accessible websites. Being aware of the people who need inclusive websites and related technologies is the next step. Now, let’s find out the best practices for creating accessible websites.
Best practices for designing and developing accessible websites
Websites connect the world and offer so many opportunities. But these benefits must be open to everyone, regardless of their disabilities. That is why creating accessible websites is an important goal for web development and design. But there are ways to go about it. Let’s find out some best practices for creating accessible websites.
Transcribe audio to text and caption multimedia content
Transcribing audio to text and captioning multimedia content is one of the major ways to make website content accessible to people with hearing disabilities. This text-based alternative makes the content of a website accessible to those who have hearing difficulties. Also, audio to text transcription works well for users with cognitive disabilities who find it easier to process and understand text.
In addition, text is more compatible with assistive technologies like screen readers. Therefore, transcribing audio to text makes it easy for users of screen readers to access important information on websites.
As mentioned earlier, accessibility is not only necessary for people with disabilities. Those who are in noisy environments and unable to listen to audio can also have access to audio content in the form of text.
Add alt-text to images
Adding alternative text to website images makes them accessible to users with visual impairments. Individuals who use braille output devices or screen readers can understand what an image is all about with the aid of alt-text.
People with low bandwidth also benefit greatly from alt-text. If the image fails to load, they can read the alt-text instead and get the message. Always ensure your alt-text is well-written and descriptive of the image. Also, keep them simple, clear and concise.
Use sufficient contrast
Ensure there’s enough contrast between the foreground text and background colors of your website. Text, buttons and other components must contrast sufficiently and be clear to everyone, including those with visual disabilities and color vision deficiencies. Proper contrast also generally improves the visibility of content and readability.
Follow readability rules
Readability is one of the factors that facilitate accessibility. To make your website accessible, ensure you comply with readability rules. Find below some of these rules:
- Efficient use of spacing: spacing is essential in web design as it helps users differentiate texts.
- Typeface uniformity: ensure there’s uniformity in your use of typeface throughout the website. It removes confusion and promotes readability.
- Opt for accessibility fonts: add fonts that are clearer and great for users with visual impairment and learning difficulties like Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial, Tahoma, etc.
- Text resizing: design your website to enable readers to resize according to their needs.
There are many other readability best practices for websites. Before designing a website or revamping one, ensure design teams are familiar with readability rules. Designing a website with readability in mind improves its accessibility.
Enable keyboard navigation
As a website owner, designer and developer, you must understand that not all users navigate with mouse and touch screens. People with visual disabilities and fine motor impairments have to use keyboards to navigate a website. Therefore, enabling your website for keyboard navigation opens up your website for this set of users.
Use semantic HTML
Assistive technologies like screen readers depend on a well-structured HTML to work effectively. A semantic HTML provides this structure; enabling these technologies to accurately convey the intended message. This creates a more positive experience for users with disabilities.
Accessibility best practices are a must for every design and development team interested in reaching as wide an audience as possible. Actually, every team must have a checklist for accessibility to ensure they comply with these best practices.
Why is web accessibility necessary
Why all the hype about accessibility? Why should you make your website accessible to everyone? What do you stand to gain if you follow web accessibility best practices? Here are five good reasons to ensure your website is accessible to all.
Compliance with rules, laws and regulations
Many countries make web accessibility mandatory. This means you will be committing an offense if your website is not accessible. In the United States, there is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that requires website accessibility.
We also have the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This set of guidelines is seen as the benchmark for website accessibility. Complying with these laws is a valid reason to make your website accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities.
Inclusivity and equal access
Making your website accessible promotes inclusivity and equal access. It ensures that everyone, regardless of their disabilities can access your website and enjoy the benefits. No one should be excluded from enjoying technology because of a disability and this alone is enough reason for your website to be accessibility-compliant.
Accessibility encourages more people to use your website, growing your audience base. When your website is accessible, you can reach many more users like the visually and hearing impaired, the elderly, users with temporary disabilities and those with low bandwidth.
Improved user experience
An inaccessible website is frustrating and leads to poor user experience for people with one form of disability or the other. Poor user experience leads to higher bounce rates and low conversions. Therefore, to improve user experience on your website, follow accessibility best practices.
Enhanced brand perception and reputation
Accessibility does a lot for your brand perception and reputation. If your website is inaccessible, your brand is perceived as one without regard for people living with disabilities. However, when you show a commitment to inclusiveness and equal access, your brand is viewed as one that respects all customers and is dedicated to creating a great user experience for all.
As you can see, there are sufficient reasons for you to want to make your website accessible to all. An accessible website not only brings advantages for your business, it also greatly benefits the society.
Web accessibility: the gateway to improved inclusivity and equal access
This digital era holds great promise and no one should be left behind. One way you can contribute your quota to an inclusive digital landscape is to make your website accessible to diverse users. This includes those living with disabilities like the visually and hearing impaired, those with mobility disabilities, the cognitively impaired and the elderly.
To make your website accessibility-compliant, you must follow industry best practices which include transcription of audio to text, multimedia captioning, addition of alt-text to images, usage of sufficient contrast, compliance with readability rules, keyboard navigation and usage of semantic HTML.
In today’s world, web accessibility is the way to go. It lets you comply with related laws and regulations, allows you to promote inclusion and equal access, helps you reach a wider audience, improves user experience on your website and boosts your brand’s perception.
What are you waiting for? Begin to take steps that would place your business at the forefront of accessibility..
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