While websites are not a new thing, building them to be accessible has not always been a high priority for businesses. Those with disabilities, such as someone who is blind or unable to operate a mouse, often encounter sites with content they simply can’t get to.
Just like a ramp outside a store, accessibility online is critical. Today’s societal push for inclusion reveals a fantastic opportunity for growth and improvement through web design. This is a shift for the better. Not only will you help disabled customers reach you, but accessibility makes for a better experience for ALL of your users.
Here at MMC, we build our new websites with WCAG 2.1 AA compliance. WCAG (“Wa-Kag”) is the standard for website accessibility, with 78 essential guidelines that can help fulfill ADA Title III accessibility requirements. That can be a lot of work to go back and update on your website, but there are a few easy, key things you can do to get your site moving in the right direction today.
Clean Up Your Descriptions
Lots of objects on your site have invisible descriptions coded in. It’s common to forget to add these, not do them well, or stuff SEO keywords into them. However, descriptions need to actually describe things. Simple, right?
Blind people can’t see your site, so if you don’t describe the objects on it correctly, they’ll be missing most of it. Here’s a crash course:
- Title Tags should tell you what page you’re on
- Alt Text on images should briefly explain what’s important about the picture (no more, no less)
- Headlines act as a kind of table of contents, so write accordingly
- Complex content (videos, interactive tours, etc.) needs more detailed descriptions
- Use semantic html5 tags to define the various parts of the page
Add Some Contrast to Colors
For people who aren’t able to detect contrast very well (and even typical users), a site needs to have enough contrast for everything to be easy to read.
How much contrast is appropriate can be a complicated question, but a color checker like this one will do all the hard work for you. Loop in a web designer if you’re having a hard time finding something that looks good in your brand colors.
Be Careful with Movement
Scrolling, flashing, shaking, floating, and other rapid movements are a big problem. Leave them in 2004 where they belong.
If you do have something moving, such as a video or a carousel, it shouldn’t be very fast and there needs to be an easy to use pause feature.
This one is guaranteed to please your entire audience.
See for Yourself
If you want to see how frustrating your site is for disabled users, try accessing your site with a screen reader or keyboard. A screen reader reads the website out loud for those who can’t see or have difficulty visually processing a site. Keyboard only access is something common for those who are unable to use a mouse.
You might be surprised by how unusable your site is with these methods. Once you’re aware of where the problems are, you can start planning actions to correct them.
Ask for an Audit
In the end, the best thing you can do is get an understanding of what on your site is not compliant. With 78 complex rules to pick through, requesting an audit from a professional is typically the most effective way to assess what steps you need to take next.
The results will help you gauge the investment needed to update the site. Older websites may just need to be replaced entirely. If so, you can use this as an opportunity to refresh and revitalize your brand with a new marketing push.
Of course, accessibility is far more complex than these 5 steps. The Department of Justice has stated that all content on a site needs to be accessible or have an accessible equivalent. In the future, we can expect additional and more complex laws requiring accessibility as well. Going forward, there’s one big golden rule your website will have to follow.
The Golden Rule: Can Everyone Access the Same Information?
Whatever you choose to do, act now. Accessibility is no longer optional.