Constant improvement is imperative to a world of progress, including the web world. Designing an effective website requires a lot of techniques, skills and testing. Testing determines the usability of the website, which ties into accessibility. Thus, one of the most important things to consider when creating a website is accessibility. Accessibility is about making your website accessible to all Internet users—everyone who wants to view it, both disabled and abled. For example, can a blind person use your website and access its content. Everyone should have equal opportunity to access the web, regardless of their limitations or browsing technology.
Overlooking this issue can lead to a loss of many users and, ultimately, of business. Proper design, development and editing will increase your website’s accessibility and make it efficient for everyone to use and navigate. People will not take interest in a website that they find complicated to use.
Improving accessibility is about taking initiative to make your website easily accessible to all types of people, including those with certain disabilities, those who speak different languages and those who lack access to certain technology. Keep in mind that a certain percentage of your website’s visitors will fall in these categories. Increasing your website’s accessibility means increasing your website’s usability, which means increasing your website’s traffic, which means increasing your profit.
Disabilities That Require Adjustments
There are many types of disabilities. But, the main few that require special accommodation are:
People lacking limbs, such as hands, that are essential to using input devices such as mice and keyboards. Tailor-made devices can facilitate their interaction with the computer.
These are the people with no vision or poor eye-sight. To browse the web, these visitors use applications like Microsoft Narrator that read out the page. They can also be accommodated by increasing the font size and contrast to make the text more readable.
These are visitors who use hearing aids or are totally deaf and, thus, cannot hear audio content on your website.
Lack of access to certain technology
These are viewers with poor Internet facilities, such as slow access speeds or devices with limited capabilities.
So, broaden your vision and welcome these viewers to your website. Develop your website with this audience in mind, and all users will be better off.
Web Accessibility = Necessity + Responsibility
The Internet has become increasingly central to our lives. To grant equal access to everyone, web accessibility is a must. The web offers the incomparable access to information and interaction for a lot of people with disabilities. It just requires extra effort to use the media. An accessible web allows people with disabilities to become more active members of our society. Web accessibility should not be taken as a “legal necessity.” It is the moral responsibility of a website owner to enable everybody to access their product.
It’s the main point of access – The main draw of the web is the dissemination of information to the whole world; its purpose is to be as universal as possible. Therefore, it ought to be a place where people can produce information for the world to view. Making your website accessible requires a few considerations and following a few key principles.
Audience is imperative – Your audience is the most important part of the web transaction. If your audience is unable to understand, view, access or use your website, then all your effort will be futile. Remember that your audience is a huge swath of people, encompassing young and old, educated and uneducated, technologically literate and untrained. So, do give your audience a little extra aid in using your website.
It enhances usability – Accessibility and usability go hand in hand. A website must have both in order to effectively function; but you cannot achieve usability without first achieving accessibility. The more accessible a web page is to all, the more usable it will be.
Improves your knowledge and ability – The world of web design and development changes and improves constantly. Stay informed on the latest best practices. One way to achieve this is to make your pages more accessible. In doing so, you will improve your abilities as a designer or developer.
Increases conversion rate – The goal of every website is to increase visitors and profits, which can also be accomplished through accessibility. Accessibility can significantly affect the overall frequency and duration of visits to your pages, and it can also increase the likelihood of sales and return visits.
It’s the law – Accessibility is also a legal requirement for any company that offers goods and services on the Internet. A service provider must take reasonable steps to deliver their service to all, including disabled people. But the law is not reason alone; think of accessibility as an enrichment of the product, not a burden.
Low maintenance and easier rebranding – Accessibility makes your website more efficient for people to use and also a lot easier to maintain. A sensible division of content, design and behavior makes it easy to redesign, and thus rebrand, the website.
Search engine optimization. – Mark up all of your textual content in a logical way with meaningful text. And add descriptions to all of your links. This way, search engines can more easily crawl your website and inform people about its subject matter. Thus, accessible websites are much more search-engine friendly.
An accessible website also brings many commercial benefits, including:
- Bigger market share – People with disabilities make up a sizeable proportion of the population.
- Higher search ranking – Accessible websites are much more search-engine friendly and so can help you optimize your ranking on search engines.
- Reduced maintenance costs – Clean code and use of CSS make websites easier and quicker to maintain.
- Better usability – Accessible websites offer clear navigation and content, which encourages users to stay longer and return in future.
- Boosts brand awareness – You can generate positive PR by showing your commitment to people with disabilities.
- Greater compatibility – By following standards for accessibility now, your website will remain readable as browsers and standards evolve.
In the absence of accessibility, your product can lose its shine, and your company can lose its clients. Improving accessibility is a big opportunity to improve business and increase profits.
And the audience for accessible websites goes far beyond those with severe disabilities. One survey estimates that one in three people visiting a website have problems accessing its content. An increasing proportion of your audience will demand more accessibility, as mobile devices gain in popularity. Highly accessible and universal designs can be viewed in countless ways.
Deal with accessibility as a strategic issue, because your businesses can increase, your audience expand, customer satisfaction rise and maintenance costs lower.
Accessibility is one of the most ignored aspects of web design. There is an assumption that it requires one to sacrifice aesthetics or that it’s not worth the effort. And yet it is critical to the success of a website. Accessibility guidelines now go hand in hand with web development practices.
Web Accessibility Tips
No matter what stage you are at in the development process, consider making your website more user-friendly. Apply simple modifications every step of the way. Here is a list of quick and easy ways to improve your website’s accessibility:
Create meaningful page titles
This is the first accessibility issue to be solved, because this will affect people even before they get to the page, and it is the first thing a screen reader user will encounter on loading the page. The title will appear in search engines as the name of the page and will inform people of the subject matter of your website. Thus, it should be precise and engaging.
Use meaningful title attributes
Consider the title attribute a short summary of the destination of a hyperlink. Merely copying the link text does not help, and users will find it superfluous and adding no value.
Put the main interactive elements high up on the page
Think of people who have limited or no hand functions interacting with a web page, where they can’t use a pointing device like a mouse. Thus, put important links and other interactive elements high up the page. Also, most website users, regardless of physical or mental ability, will assume that the most important items are close to the top.
Add a description to every link
Whenever a user mouses over a link, a title should pop up describing the targeted page. This will help the user navigate the website and decrease their frustration. They will more likely continue using the website, too.
Always use tag elements when using acronyms and abbreviations
Tags explain acronyms and abbreviations to people who do not understand what they mean. Use tag elements also when using slang, informal speech or unfamiliar contractions. They make the website more accessible to all people, regardless of knowledge, skill level or disability.
Implement skip navigation
Skip navigation permits screen reader users and people who cannot use a mouse to skip long lists of links. It is simply a link at the top of the page that, when clicked, takes the user to the main content. Some websites keep the skip link visible, but the link can be hidden from able-bodied users by moving it outside of the browser’s viewport using CSS.
Supply alternate content for images
Offers alternatives to users who cannot see the images on your website because of blindness or lack of technology. Incorporate “alt” attributes to explain images when they cannot be seen or loaded. Also consider text-only browsers like Lynx, which skip images altogether and allow for much quicker access to the text.
Label every input element in a form
HTML web forms are a basic way to interact with a website, so mark them up correctly. Label each and every input element in your forms with meaningful and descriptive text, to make clear to the user what information they should be providing.
Use heading tags appropriately
Headings are an outline of the web page, and their tags allow screen reader users to jump to the sections they’re interested in. Breaking up long pages into logical sections with headings makes it easier to get to the point of interest. Without a heading to indicate where a web form begins, for example, screen reader users would have to wade through a lot of content to get to the form.
Use precise language
Use precise and carefully worded language throughout your website. Take extra care with labels for input elements. Precise language ensures that your product is accurately represented and makes your website more easily finable through a search engine.
Think about the structure of your URLs
Keep your website well organized by using descriptive categories and file names for documents. This will also help search engines crawl documents and make for friendlier URLs for those who want to link to your content. Some users will link to your page using the URL as the anchor text. If the URL contains relevant words, then users and search engines will know more about the page beforehand.
Use the “description” meta tag
A page’s description meta tag gives search engines a summary of the page. The title of the page may be a few words or a phrase, while the description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. Description tags are important because they appear in search results as the snippet between the page title and URL.
Make the navigation accessible
Help users easily identify which page or section they are viewing. Most websites today use a combination of text, colors and graphics to organize and display information. But many people with disabilities cannot see graphics and so rely on screen readers, custom style sheets and other tools to retrieve information. Thus, accessible navigation will help them find the desired information quickly and accurately.
Indicate the document’s language using the lang attribute
Indicate the document’s language using the “lang” attribute in the HTML tag. Computer programs that read out content need to know the language of the page in order to know how to pronounce the words correctly. In addition, Google needs to know the language in order to assist users in their search.
Write quality, readable content
The best way to draw visitors is to create useful content. Blocks of text should be no wider than 80 characters and should not be fully justified (i.e. not aligned on both the left and right margins). Possibly confusing or industry-specific words should be accompanied by definitions. Also, expand abbreviations when using them for the first time. And do not distinguish links with color alone.
Use colors according to their universal meaning
The connotations of certain colors can be understood by all people, regardless of disability, age, language or computer knowledge. For example, red means error, green means correct, and yellow means alert. But don’t depend solely on color, because some users may be color blind or using monochromatic screens.
Avoid CAPTCHAs in forms
CAPTCHA in forms is inconvenient for people with disabilities, limited devices or limited computer skills. If absolutely necessary, make the CAPTCHA as simple as possible, and add an audio alternative for people with hearing difficulties.
Things to consider when integrating music
Unless your website is focused on music, never use music completely throughout the website. If the music is essential to your topic, add a tag element that explains what is playing for people with hearing problems. If you do integrate music in your website, make sure there is a clear button to silence it.
Structure your forms well
Ensure that your web form is well structured and can be easily used and understood by all people. The user should be able to navigate it with their keyboard (such as by using the Tab key to cycle through input elements). And even if the user speaks another language, they should be able to generally recognize the purpose of each element.
Understand assistive technologies
To make a website truly accessible, we must understand how a disabled person uses assistive technology. Many simulators are online that will help you at least get a sense of how assistive technologies render and interact with websites. Try the screen reader simulator WebAnywhere to feel what it’s like to be blind and interact with a website.
Readability is key to accessibility but hard to test. Online tools will evaluate text based on different reading scales and suggests which complex sentences need attention. There are many ways to make a website universally accessible, and the ways of integrating them vary in difficulty. Spending just a few hours reading resources will teach you a lot about web accessibility, for sure.
Use the id and class CSS attributes correctly
With CSS attributes, you can use an id only once on a page and use each class as much as you want. Developers often get careless and include an id multiple times on a page. This can create unexpected results in different browsers.
Web accessibility is not about degrading the overall user experience
Web accessibility is about offering multiple access points, with varying levels of complexity. It is a philosophy. Many of us are afraid that a highly accessible website will be a mediocre experience for the average user. But it’s not true. Web accessibility provides several points of access, tailored to the capabilities of different users.
Use these techniques to create more accessible, standards-based websites. Don’t delay! Test your website, and make the changes immediately. Keep your concern alive, and look at it as a moral issue.
Tools to Increase Accessibility
Your website must be able to function in all browsing devices, and these technologies have their own accessibility requirements:
- Screen reader – The page’s content is read aloud in the order that it appears in the HTML document.
- WebTV – 560 pixels wide, with no horizontal scrolling.
- Screen magnifier – As few as three to four words might appear on the screen at a time.
- Slow connection – Images can be turned off for faster downloading time.
- 1600-pixel screen width – A very wide screen.
Provide alternatives to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone:
- Images – Alternative: alt text
- Flash – Alternative: HTML equivalent
- Audio and video – Alternative: subtitles or written transcript
An accessible website can bring amazing benefits to your business. So, below is a list of tools to help you. Every tool is easy to use and offers quality testing.
1. Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
2. Color Blindness Simulator
This will reveal how your images, colors and website appear to users with a variety of color blindness conditions You can quickly upload a JPEG image and analyze how to make your pages more accessible to color-blind users. Approximately 1 in 20 people have some form of condition that prevents them from seeing color accurately.
3. Image Analyzer
This great tool enables you to examine every image on a page to check for accessibility issues. It carefully examines the width, height, alt, and longdesc attributes to determine whether they have the appropriate values. Accessibility depends partly on how well users can interact with images and how images are displayed, so learn from the errors pointed out by this service.
4. Firefox Accessibility Extension
The Firefox toolbar has a large suite of tools to test numerous aspects of your website for accessibility. You can actively check every element of the design of your pages. You can quickly create lists for images and other elements and see whether they’re standard-compliant or have issues. The extension includes testing for text, scripts, styles and a whole lot more.
5. Functional Accessibility Evaluator
This analyzes various parts of your website and gives you a color-coded results page with a nice overview of everything you need to know. Simply click on a category to see detailed information.
6. Fujitsu Web Accessibility Inspector
Check how your page appears to elderly and visually disabled people. This software has to be downloaded to your system, Max OS X or Windows, and then you can point it to a local file or website. It will then produce a long report, touching on every aspect of the file.
7. Test and Improve Readability
This free online tool measures the readability of articles or any other form of content. It tests for the following: grade level, ARI (Automated Readability Index), Flesh Kincaid, SMOG and more. It also determines the level of education needed to understand the content. Take this tool seriously, because readability goes hand in hand with accessibility.
8. Web Accessibility Toolbar
This toolbar enables Opera users to quickly access some popular accessibility tools. Not all items will be functional if you are offline because they need to access scripts and tools on the vendor’s servers; but if you have Internet access, you’ll have everything at your fingertips.
9. IBM’s Rational Policy Tester
Here is a Windows-only solution for testing accessibility. This is a paid solution, but the price is not obvious; given that IBM is offering it, it is likely not cheap.
10. Truwex Online 2.0
This checks a range of accessibility issues, such as section 508, WCAG levels, privacy, broken links and so on. Simply go to the page, enter a URL, check the boxes for the items you want to be tested, and you’ll get a report shortly after.
AccessColor tests the brightness and contrast of all elements in the DOM against the background to make sure that the contrast is high enough for people with visual impairments. Getting the right contrast takes time, and this tool helps by visually flagging sections of a page with poor color combinations.
12. Contrast Analyser
Choosing colors is not only challenging aesthetically, but then you have to make sure they’re readable. This tool lets you see the contrast of two colors and helps you determine whether people with visual impairments, such as color blindness, will be able to read the content.
13. Cynthia Says
In this tool, Enter a URL and get a report on how well your website complies with Section 508 and WCAG-Priority 1, 2 and 3.
aDesigner is a disability simulator that helps designers ensure that their content and applications are accessible to the visually impaired. It tests the accessibility and usability of Web pages for people who use voice browsers and screen readers.
15. Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5
Dreamweaver CS4 has a validation tool built right in that allows you to choose what to test at any time and get a full report on any errors.
This software makes certain colors on the page indistinguishable in the way that people with color blindness experience. One of its aims is to help people with color blindness guess a normal color. In addition to the color transformation, it can darken all colors other than a specified color, and can draw different hatch patterns based on a color.
17. Site Morse
This range of testing services requires no set-up, downloading or technical support to operate. Site Morse measures performance, tests functions and checks compliance with web standards and accessibility. The service may be used as required, scheduled weekly or monthly, or used as a monitoring system running every few minutes.
18. Vision Australia
Vision Australia is a group working to make sure that people with all forms of vision problems have as much access to life as anyone else. It develops two toolbars for Internet Explorer and Opera to test how well your website works for someone with impaired vision.
19. Every Eye
Every Eye can be used by any interactive, software or media content designer or publisher. It shows your design the way older and color-blind people see them. You can quickly see the difficulties they will experience and make adjustments.
20. Any Browser
View a website in various screen sizes via Any Browser, and see what the page looks like with alt tags replacing all of the images. Also available are HTML validation, link checking, search engine tools and other browser-compatibility tests.
Other User-Friendly Tools
It is always thrilling to try out new user-testing tools. They often lead to great insight on accessibility issues. A few of the new ones are listed here. Be sure to try them out for yourself.
A fast and cost-efficient way to get user feedback, User Testing offers affordable usability testing.
Another tool that could be useful for testing, Usabilla allows you to collect visual feedback from your website in just five minutes, offering a transparent approach to visual feedback.
This tool offers three things: usability test scenarios, the ability to invite testers through a link, and the option to watch and listen to invitees use your website or application.
Most people run a business to make money. For them, their website is an important business tool. While creating a website, one of your primary concerns should be to make it accessible to as many people as possible. Take all potential visitors into consideration, including people with color blindness, low vision and total blindness. Stay well informed on accessibility issues and advancements, and consider them at various stages of development. Incorporating these methods and achieving better results is easy; just pay attention at the earliest stage. A website optimized for accessibility not only will be a boon for you but will benefit everyone.
The web is becoming increasingly important to many aspects of life: education, recruitment, business, fitness, recreation and so on. It must be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. Accessibility can expand the role of your website by helping disabled people participate more fully in society.
The web is evolving into a complex world. It is not a place where people are concerned solely with profit; rather, there is a higher level of consciousness that is spurring people to consider more carefully the needs of those with disabilities.