The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Title II of the ADA works to ensure that websites for government organizations have accessible features. While website accessibility may not be a legal requirement for non-government websites, it is a beneficial web design practice. That’s why the MIBS, Inc. team works to ensure every website we design is accessible.
Beyond that, we provide accessibility best practices in our training with customers. This helps ensure that website accessibility is maintained as content is added and updated by staff and website administrators. Just because a website was accessible at one point does not mean that it will continue to be so.
Questions To Ask When Considering Website Accessibility:
There are three main question to ask yourself when consider accessibility for your website.
Why is Website Accessibility a Priority?
There are several reasons website accessibility should be a priority. The primary reason is that it ensures the best possible user experience for your website visitors. This is because it enables all users to access the information they need from your site.
WC3 Website Accessibility Initiative classifies accessibility as a web design best practice, much like website responsiveness. Accessible sites also perform better in search results giving you a better audience reach. Making your website accessible could also help reduce maintenance costs for your site. The best way to begin approaching accessibility is by considering what ways your website could be more friendly to people with disabilities.
What Barriers to People with Disabilities Face?
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when designing your website is to assume that everyone is able to access it in the same way. There are many barriers that people with disabilities face when navigating websites. However, there is a lot of technology to helps people overcome these barriers. Understanding this technology is important when designing a website.
Many people may use screen readers or text enlargement technology to help them access the written information on your website. Consider whether or not your website and its content is compatible with this technology. People may also use voice control programs to control their computer, or keyboards to navigate rather than a mouse or trackpad. Just as your site should be responsive for use on different devices, it should also be easy to navigate using different methods.
What are Some Best Practices?
There are several best practices to consider when designing your website to make it more accessible:
Make sure the functionality of your website is accessible through mouse, keyboard, and voice control systems. The best way to test this is to have someone that uses these assistive technologies test your website. If you can’t do this, you may also test it manually. You can do this yourself or with the help of an accessibility expert.
Provide visual access to auditory content like podcasts or videos. This is can be done easily by providing a transcript or captioning. Remember, transcripts and captions should include audio content, and also describe any visual content. This helps people that use screen readers better understand and experience your multimedia content.
Use alternative text for images. It helps screen reader and other assistive technology users’ access and understand images on your website. Alt text should be a relevant description of the image – this is NOT a place for “keyword stuffing”.
Don’t rely on color as the main tool for navigation/ links, or to differentiate between items on the website. Users with low vision or color blindness will have trouble differentiating between links and other content if color is the only cue. Try adding an underline or hover effect to your links.
Schedule regular accessibility audits for your website. Whether in-house or through a third-party accessibility expert your website needs evaluated regularly to maintain accessibility.
How often should you schedule these accessibility audits? This depends on how often your website content is updated and how many people are updating your website. We generally recommend that an audit be performed every six to 12 months.