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How to make your website more accessible

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With the expansion of employment, education, government, healthcare, entertainment and business services online, accessible web design has become a critical issue in determining whether disabled users will have equal access to those services. Every website owner wants to get as many visits as possible and there are millions of users that rely on accessible websites. If you don’t take the time to understand their needs, both you and those users will be missing out. 

So how do you implement website accessibility? Well, fortunately, this isn’t very difficult to do. You just need to take a moment to understand underlying problems that make a website hard to use by people with different disabilities. Once you understand these issues, you can take the necessary steps to avoid these mistakes. We want to help you out and show you what website accessibility involves and outline the ways in which you can implement accessible web design. Let’s get started: 

Start Your Web Design Project with Accessibility in Mind

The first and most important step for having an accessible website is to understand how users with disabilities browse the web. Take some time to learn about the different approaches and tools that are used by people with disabilities and to understand the barriers they encounter because of poor designs. Different disabilities pose different limitations. For example, color blindness makes it difficult for users to shop; a person who is blind will have to use a screen reader; and a person with hearing difficulties relies on subtitles for audio content. To learn more about the different barriers that come with different types of disabilities, click here. You can also learn about web accessibility through Google’s free Intro to Web Accessibility course

To make sure your website is fully accessible, take accessibility into account from the very beginning. Not all themes, plugins and widgets offer equal accessibility to your visitors, so before you choose what tools you want used on your website, follow these guidelines to help ensure your website’s content is accessible, and take the following steps:

Structure Your Website Properly

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One of the most important things in creating an accessible website is to structure it properly. Here are a couple ways to do that. 

  • Incorporate header tags: Screen readers use header tags as indicators of important information and content structure. Make sure you don’t skip headings or use them out of order (H1,H2,H3, and so on).
  • Alternative text for images (alt-text): Screen readers read alternative text of website images, so providing descriptive text on images will help users with disabilities better understand what those images depict
  • Use tables the right way: Data tables are great for presenting complex information in a simple way. However, screen readers aren’t able to distinguish between a table used for layout purposes and a table that contains data. That’s why you should include a few specific HTML tags to ensure screen reader users can understand data tables. Without the appropriate tags, users with visual impairments won’t be able to understand the relationships between the cells and table headers.
  • Create accessible forms: Use well-positioned labels and descriptive labels to each field in your forms, so that screen readers can identify them. 

Content and Accessibility

To ensure that the elements of your website are accessible for visitors that use screen readers, special web browsers and keyboards and other tools, take the following tips into account:

Don’t depend on colour alone 

Colour is a useful tool to emphasize important information, but it shouldn’t be the only one you use. A form that only relies on color to identify required fields will be a problem for visitors who use a screen reader or are color blind. That’s why you should combine colour with other ways (such as text tags) to emphasize critical information. 

Optimize for keyboard-only navigation

Users with mobility challenges can’t operate a mouse with precision, which is why they use a keyboard, a special keyboard overlay and other devices designed to make browsing the web easier. Certain web content such as slideshows, complex menus, popups or other items that require a mouse-over action will remain inaccessible to users who only use their keyboards. That is why developers and designers need to consider keyboard-only visitors when designing the site’s interactions. 

Add alternatives to audio and video content

Today’s web heavily uses videos and podcasts, so when you’re using this type of content, provide text alternatives for users with auditory and visual impairments. For example, make written transcripts available for both video and audio and make sure all videos include captions. Also, make sure your captions are synchronised with the audio.

Describe the links

Visitors that use a screen reader depend on link text to discern where that link will lead, so make sure your text links use short descriptive text. In short, instead of a ‘read more’ label, your link should use better descriptive text such as “read more about us.”

Be Careful with Dynamic Content

Many websites today use technologies such as JavaScript to make their websites more interactive. Nevertheless, dynamic content can cause issues for keyboard-only users or screen readers. For example, a user might end up stuck in page overlays that they’re not able to control with their assisting device.

Some final words

Now that you know more about accessibility and the different ways to implement it on your website, it’s time to review your website and give it a full audit. There are many useful tools you can use to help you in this process, and implementing accessibility will ultimately benefit you and your website visitors. Remember, the more accessible your website, the more users will be able to read and find information on it. Not only does accessibility help you expand your audience, but it will also help people with disabilities access more information and make web browsing easier for them.

Need help with your project? Don’t sweat it. Arttractiv specializes in creative web design that will help you reach your full potential. Get in touch with us today.