Web Accessibility: Why Is It Important?
The web should be accessible to all. However, even if the world wide web is free, it isn’t exactly available to everyone. Though web accessibility is achievable.
It is essential for web developers and designers to not exclude people from using their services and products.
Thus, the web should also be accessible to people with sight issues facilitating the process with screen readers.
What is Web Accessibility?
Technically web accessibility includes that tools, technologies and websites be designed in a way that they are easier to use for someone with disabilities, limitations and impairments.
It allows them to perceive, interact, understand, navigate with the web and contribute to it.
Besides that, web accessibility ensures that people who have limitations and disabilities have the same experiences on the web as others.
Web accessibility talks about all the disabilities and limitations that affect and impact someone’s access to the Web.
However, it is not limited to benefiting people with disabilities.
In fact, it can be equally important for older people with changing abilities as they age, being in situational limitations such as a place where you cannot turn on the volume or with bright sunlight, or even for people with different inputs on devices.
Therefore, having accessibility features are likely to benefit everyone in one way or another.
The members of the WebAccessibility Initiative and the World Wide Web Consortium publish Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so that people can make their websites more accessible.
But first, let’s find out why it is important.
Importance of Web Accessibility
Accessibility features make content on the web on the web more user-friendly and easier to understand for everyone.
Whether it is a person with low vision or an elderly trying to navigate the web, there is enough o gain from it for everyone.
It can be especially helpful for people with blindness and other vision problems, hearing loss, learning disabilities, deafness, and physical and speech difficulties.
By directing your website’s focus on accessibility, you will also be able to greatly improve its UX.
Plus, showing that concern for your visitors is bound to increase your brand loyalty.
People coming to your website even with their disabilities and limitations will be able to recognize that you have made the website by keeping them in mind.
Thus, it will increase your customer base.
While accessibility does not have a direct link with SEO yet, it may be valued in the future but it is still a legal requirement.
That said, sites that have better UX do perform better in SERPs, therefore, incorporating accessibility results in good UX and then contributes to better ranking.
Besides the technical aspects of the benefits businesses and website owners get from building accessible websites, it is crucial to not overlook an entire community while making the website.
There are already fewer avenues available for the marginalized community of people with disabilities and limitations.
Thus, it is important that they are able to use the web the same way any other person does.
This should be a place available to all people to make use of.
Hence, you should not isolate some members of the community from the rest not giving them access to your website and even confusing them when they visit it.
Web Accessibility Standards
The four principles of web accessibility formulate the standards everyone should abide by.
Using these four principles, you can apply accessibility throughout your website whenever that is possible.
These four include:
As the name suggests, the content and layout of your website should be perceivable to all visitors.
They must be able to understand and be aware of the information presented.
This means that the users are able to understand the text and the information without being able to read through one’s eyes.
A screen reader software should also be able to catch it, by converting printed text into synthesized speech and braille characters.
All the content that is on your website whether it is graphic design images or written text, should be easily understood by people coming to your website.
The verbose language that is jumbled limits access to people with cognitive impairments, as well as those who do not speak the language your site is in but have a textbook understanding of it.
Similarly, it applies to the site structure.
The pages need to be organized intuitively and orderly plus the navigation should be available on all pages for the visitors.
Operable websites are generally simple, and straightforward and do not have any excess functionality that could hinder people with liabilities and disabilities.
Hence, it does not disrupt the user suddenly, for instance by showing a pop-up ad.
And all users are able to navigate across the site rather easily and uniformly.
Therefore, you can press and play a video easily, go to a link from the menu and there are no excess features in it.
The content should be easily consumable and also interpreted by all people.
This includes those who use screen readers to access the content.
Hence, you will have to tap into writing the HTML in a way that assistive technologies are able to parse the code without having to need a visual reference.
But how do these elements play out directly in making your website accessible? What can you incorporate within your text, or HTML source code to make the site truly accessible?
Let’s find out!
Measures to Take
For your website to be robust, perceivable, operable and understandable, it should incorporate certain features that make it accessible to everyone.
This includes the structuring of the content and alt-text in the images.
Perceivable and Understandable
All of the non-text content on your website such as images, videos and audio should include a text alternative.
For videos, it can be video transcripts, for images you have alt text describing them.
The image alt text is extremely important for nondecorative images but for decorative ones add an alt attribute and leave it blank.
This helps the non-sighted viewers to gather what the image conveys.
Content Structure should be adaptable
If you take away the design of the page, can you tell the headings apart from the paragraphs?
Your HTML should contain the structure so that it isn’t lost when there is no page styling.
This includes using bold, italics, headings and ordered lists to convey information.
Easy to hear and see content
For people with color blindness, there should be enough color contrast and usage of colors that they can see.
Moreover, visitors should be able to halt any background audio or adjust it if it plays on the website.
Time-based media alternatives
These include audio and media files.
You can add full audio transcripts and video captions to make it accessible to the hard of hearing visitors.
Structure Site Logically
Your navigational links and ages should be in a way most people expect them to be.
Thus, the navigation bar should be in the header or footer and not hidden in the site.
Write Error Messages that Explain Clearly
As no one likes receiving an error message, yours should be a clear one highlighting what the problem is as well as giving instructions on how they can correct it.
Your text content should be readable
Even if you are writing for a native audience, your content should be easily understood by your audience.
Avoid the use of jargon or slang.
Operable and Robust
Do not go for blinking content
Did you know that blinking or flashing content occurring three times in a second can result in a seizure?
You should avoid including it on the website.
If it is unavoidable, at least give a fair warning.
There should be total functionality through the keyboard
Not all of your visitors can use the mouse.
Hence it is important to ensure that all the functionality of your website is possible through the keyboard.
This means the entire key will click the element in focus while the tab key will allow visitors to jump between the selected elements.
A keyboard focus indicator, clear page title, links and proper headings all can tell users where they are on the site and what links do they need to click now.
Hence, make navigation for them easier so that they are not lost on the site.
Provide Time to Engage
There are certain time constraint elements on the website.
Allow the users to extend or pause it.
Set a time delay for when certain elements such as the accessible drop-down menus appear again once they have been disengaged.
HTML that can be parsed
Web inaccessibility tools and assistive technologies use a web page’s HTML file to translate it into another format.
Thus use start and end tags in HTML.
Also, avoid duplicate IDs across elements and duplicate attributes in the same HTML tag.
You can make this easier by using web accessibility tools that will help in making your web accessible.
- WCAG Compliance Auditor
- DYNO Mapper
What You Should Not Do
It is best to make your entire website accessible, but as a first step, at least you should avoid things that specifically make it inaccessible.
- Text on images that have a very small font size
- Roughly and poorly structured tables
- Flyouts or pop-ups that are likely to confuse visitors using the screen readers
- Lacking the “skip to content” link or other orderly navigational links (complex navigation)
- Text on images and elsewhere without a high contrast for visually impaired users
When you avoid these mistakes, you are already one step into making an accessible website.
Use the web accessibility tools to guide you and make an even better website that is available for use to all people around the world.