Building a Better Site: Accessibility Tips

by on September 5, 2017

We have great news: the majority of our design and development team have been formally trained in the latest web accessibility standards! We’re dedicated to helping you ensure that your website meets current accessibility standards.

Homepage for Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation - screenshot on a laptop

Example of an accessible website developed by Inverse Paradox – Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (patf.us)

Web accessibility refers to ensuring that websites utilize assistive technology in order to allow users (both with and without disabilities) to access all of your site’s features. Accessibility standards for the web have been established and developed over the past two and a half decades. Currently, the WCAG 2.0 standards are being widely adopted as the appropriate standard. Though it’s nothing new, the practice of web accessibility has been generating a lot of talk in 2017.

Who needs to meet these standards? In the U.S., government organizations and those who receive federal funding, such as healthcare providers, are required by law to do so or at least now include the requirements in their procurement process. Additionally, there is a trend of lawsuits being pursued for cases of companies violating ADA. If your business does or would adhere to ADA standards in the physical world, then you should aim for your website to reach at least WCAG 2.0.

Even if you’re not someone who regularly uses assistive technology to browse the web, chances are you’ve been in situations where you couldn’t use a website in the way you wanted. Bright sunlight making it difficult to see what’s on your screen, loud noises making it hard to hear the video you’re trying to watch — accessibility aims to counteract these issues and allow all users to do what they need, no matter the circumstances.

In short, the more accessible your website is, the more people can and will use it, opening up your site (and consequently your business) to a much wider audience!

The goal isn’t necessarily perfection, but introducing improvements to make your site more accessible. Revamping an entire site is not feasible for everyone, especially if you recently built or redesigned your website. There are plenty of small steps you can take instead that will have a big impact on making your site more accessible – some of these are simple enough to start today!

 

  • Add Alternative Text for Images – “Alt text” is a text description of an image, included in the surrounding text or as an alt attribute tag in the HTML code. If an image with an alt attribute tag fails to load, the alt text displays instead so that the user knows what should have been there.  Similarly, screen readers rely on this alt text to communicate the content to blind or low-vision users.
  • Convey Meaning with More Than Color – When marking off a required section or notifying the user of an error, chances are your first instinct is to use a color, such as red, to make those areas pop. You should also call attention to them with an additional element, like a symbol or pattern, so that users with color vision deficiency (or even users in poor lighting conditions) can notice the distinction.
  • Be Specific with Link Names – Some screen reader users may skim through your content looking for a certain link. The text that shows as a hyperlink is the only context that your users have for where the link leads. Make this text descriptive, but not overly detailed — something more than “click here” or “read more.” Here is an example of descriptive link text. (If you use an image as a link, the alt text will function as the anchor text!)
  • Make Files Available in Multiple Formats – While it’s possible to create an accessible PDF using readily available tools like Microsoft Word, it’s beneficial to provide users with multiple text-based file types, such as .rtf or .doc, when downloading a document. This gives users more options and once again helps those using screen readers.

 

For more information on web accessibility, check out some of these resources below:

The Deque Blog – Top Accessibility Resources

WebAIM – An Introduction to Web Accessibility

WebAIM – Alternative Text

Terrill Thompson – Good Examples of Accessible Web Sites

 

Accessibility isn’t a trend, but something that’s here to stay. If you’re not already required to make your site accessible, it’s likely something coming your way soon!  You can use these tips as a way of getting a head start. Increased accessibility opens up your business to new customers and gives you an edge over your competitors.  Building a better site and potentially increasing your leads? Sounds like a win-win!

 

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