How to Make Websites More Accessible for People with Disabilities
You probably know about ways we make spaces more accessible to those with disabilities. There are ramps for wheelchairs, designated parking spaces, and braille in public spaces. Just like we’ve made changes to make the physical world more inclusive, the internet has to follow along.
After all, so much of our lives are conducted online. Whether it’s through computers, a smartphone, or a tablet, people with disabilities need the same level of access to the web.
For people who are visually impaired, that means using software that reads websites out loud to them. However, not every site is set up to be read easily by these programs. Then there are people who may not have full functionality with their hands. They could use voice input to navigate through your site instead of the normal scroll option. If you’re not aware of how these systems work and what cues they pick up on, you’re likely to not build a site that’s accessible.
Not only does that leave you missing out on potential clients or customers, but it could also leave you vulnerable to lawsuits and backlash.
Go ahead and test your site right now to see where it lands. You can use a tool called the WCAG validator to see if you’re in compliance with website accessibility standards. If you’re not, your company is vulnerable.
So how do you make a website more accessible? Here are five ways that the website development team at efelle can help get your website into compliance.
If you’ve learned a little bit about SEO or accessibility, you’ve probably come across “alt-text.” This is text on the backend of your site for each photo on a page. It’s a good place to add keywords, which is why it’s used for SEO. More importantly, though, it’s meant as a place to describe what is seen in the image.
We mentioned earlier that people who are visually impaired use software that reads websites out loud to them. For these people to really get the full experience of your website and what your brand is trying to convey, a good description of photography in the alt-text is crucial.
Graphics and PDFs
Similar to photos, graphics and PDFs also have to be readable on your website. You could design a beautiful graphic with some important text on it and upload that directly to your website. However, for someone with reading software, none of that text will be picked up. It’s better to design your website so that the text is readable instead of part of a graphic.
That applies to PDFs as well. Unfortunately, if you’re directing someone to a PDF those are not readable either. If you use PDFs for fillable forms, you’ll want to consider having a form embedded on your website instead. Any information you’re trying to convey through a PDF should be on your site as text instead.
Side note: these issues also apply to social media. For instance, Instagram has a feature where you can add alt-text to graphics. In general, it’s a good rule of thumb that anything mentioned in a graphic should also be called out in the caption. If you need assistance with your social media accessibility, we offer digital marketing services as well.
Another tool important for SEO, heading tags can also help give an outline to your website for those who are using a tool to read the site.
For example, when someone with a disability visits this blog, they can jump around the page to find the part of the article that is most interesting to them. The way the page is divided is by the outline of your heading tags (H1, H2, H3, and so on.) Maybe someone comes to this blog and hears the title readout as the H1 tag. Instead of just reading the entire article, the reading software can then read out all H2 tags on the page so the person visiting the site can decide if they want to skip to a certain section.
Once they skip to that H2 section, they can read the whole section or skip through that H2 section’s H3 tags. It’s truly like a bulleted outline for each page on your website.
If you’re not using your heading tags as a clear outline, it can get confusing.
The pages on your website will likely link to other pages through your navigation, however, there are also times when you embed a link in the copy itself. How you do this is important for accessibility.
We mentioned that tools that read out your website can skip around the page through the headings, but those tools can also skip around the links to find the correct information. Now imagine that your website has a bunch of links that just say “Read More.” When the reading software jumps between these links, that’s all that will be read aloud. Instead, you want the text to include a bit more context. You could say, “read more about our services” or even just, “Our Services.”
Not only would these types of links make more sense for accessibility purposes, but again this is a place where you could also be helping your website’s SEO by including keywords.
Test the Site Across Platforms
Lastly, it’s crucial to make sure that your website has been thoroughly tested on desktop, mobile, and tablet. This should be standard practice for any website these days, but it’s also important to test for the accessibility aspect in each version.
People with disabilities use websites in a variety of ways, just like anyone else who might visit your site. The user experience has to be considered for all visitors.
Need Help Making Your Website Accessible?
These are just a few ways you might not be incorporating accessibility best practices on your site. Like anything on the internet, as things evolve, your site might become more out of date. New tools get introduced, new regulations are released, and accessibility software updates periodically. You have to make sure you have a team that understands the importance of accessibility and also stays up to date with the latest in website compliance.
If you need some assistance making your website compliant with web accessibility standards, we’re here to help. Keep in mind that your website can still be interactive and aesthetically pleasing while being user-friendly to all users. Reach out to us to get started.