In today’s digital landscape, designing and developing an accessible website is crucial to ensure inclusivity and provide equal access to information for all users. According to the Gartner 2023 Market Report for Digital accessibility, “Digital accessibility is no longer a choice; it’s a requirement.” By implementing best practices, you can enhance compatibility with assistive technologies, improve content readability, and deliver inclusive user experiences. In this blog post, we will explore key strategies and techniques to create an accessible website that meets the needs of diverse users.
- Understand Accessibility Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with accessibility guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for creating inclusive web content and cover areas like perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust design principles.
- Implement Semantic HTML: Utilize semantic HTML tags to structure your content. Properly organized headings, lists, and descriptive elements not only improve accessibility but also enhance the overall user experience. Screen readers rely on semantic structure to navigate and convey information accurately.
- Provide Alternative Text for Images: Include descriptive alternative text (alt text) for images that convey necessary meaning, ensuring that users with visual impairments can understand the content. Alt text should be concise, yet informative, conveying the purpose and context of the image. If the image is purely decorative and does not convey important information to the users experience of the overall content, however, alt text should not be added as it adds undue clutter to the audio presented by screen reader.
- Ensure Color Contrast: Maintain sufficient color contrast between text and background to enhance readability for users with visual impairments. Aim for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, or higher for larger text or important elements. While contrast must be high enough for low vision users, avoid extreme contrast, as this can be taxing on the eyes and nervous systems of neurominority users.
- Create Keyboard-Friendly Navigation: Ensure that all website functionality can be accessed and operated using a keyboard alone. Keyboard navigation is essential for users with motor disabilities or those who rely on alternative input devices.
- Make Forms Accessible: Optimize form fields and labels for accessibility. Provide clear instructions, error messages, and consider input validation to assist users in completing forms accurately. Implementing ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes can enhance the accessibility of complex form elements.
- Caption Videos and Provide Transcripts: For multimedia content, including videos, ensure accurate captions or subtitles are provided. This benefits users with hearing impairments and allows them to fully comprehend the video’s content. Additionally, offer transcripts for audio content to cater to users who prefer text-based alternatives. While AI generated captions and transcripts are convenient be sure to have them human edited as errors do occur and punctuation is rarely included automatically.
- Consider Demand on User Nervous System: Humans come in a wide array of neurotypes just like they come in different colors. Not all brains and nervous systems interact with technology the same way. Consider the demands your site is making on the user’s nervous system; too little impact and you won’t get their attention but too much and you can cause real harm and make interaction with your site or product impossible for some users. Avoid high saturation colors, flashing and motion that cannot be paused.
- Test and Audit Regularly: Regularly test your website’s accessibility using automated tools, manual testing, and assistive technologies. Ensure your user research includes focus groups of users with disabilities and neurominorities. Conduct accessibility audits to identify and address any potential barriers or issues that may impact user accessibility. Reach out to us for testing and research assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creating an accessible website is not only a legal requirement in many jurisdictions but also a way to add value and grow market share while meeting a high ethical standard of inclusion. By following these best practices, you can begin to design and develop websites that are more inclusive, user-friendly, and accessible to individuals with various disabilities. Embrace accessibility as a core principle, and contribute to a more inclusive digital environment.
If you are a product owner, designer or developer that would like to level up your skills to include accessibility be sure to follow us and check into our shop periodically for course work and certifications as they come available. We can also assist at the company level in creating custom trainings for internal use.
Remember, accessibility benefits everyone, regardless of ability. Let’s strive to make the web a place where everyone can access and engage with content seamlessly.
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