Website Accessibility Made Easy: Your 2020 Ultimate Guide

This is a very detailed article on website accessibility by Mark Holden. He starts with who needs accessible website and why accessible website are good for all of us. The author further provides details about laws of website accessibility and elaborates on how to make a website accessible.

Mark further explains about each types of disabilities from visual, auditory, physical, and cognitive. He has provided detailed tips on each of the disabilities and provides information which could help anyone to build an accessibility compliant website.

Interested? Keep reading :)

Image from website planet

Website accessibility means making your website easy for everybody to access, including users with disabilities or impairments of some type or other. The Internet is a non-physical space, so it should be equally accessible to all – but only if we all plan for accessibility.

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” — Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

Who Needs an Accessible Website?

Think about some common issues with inaccessible websites. Have you ever visited a website with a tiny font that you can barely read, confusing pages where it’s not obvious what to do next, or small buttons that aren’t clearly defined? It probably left you feeling frustrated, to say the least. That’s what website accessibility comes to fix.

Some common disabilities that are considered by website accessibility planners include:

  • Blind visitors

  • Users with poor or partial sight

  • Deaf or hearing-impaired users

  • Users with dyslexia who struggle to understand long texts

  • Users with cognitive or neurological impairments

  • Users with a physical disability

Accessible Websites Are Good for Us All

Accessible websites are not only for users with disabilities. They help everybody:

  • Older internet users can struggle to click on small buttons on a website.

  • Users who aren’t familiar with the internet find it difficult to understand where to click on a new tab.

  • If you’re in a noisy train station and want to watch a video, but you forgot your headphones, you rely on the captions for the hearing-impaired.

  • When using your tablet in the bright sunlight you need better contrast options that aid users with visual disabilities.

  • You might need to use accessible website practices if you broke your arm and can’t use a mouse effectively, or you’re holding a baby with one hand and completing an important form online with the other.

When you build an accessible website, you check a lot of other boxes at the same time. Mobile web design, usability, SEO, and optimal user experience all overlap with accessible design. Plus, if your website is easy to use, frustration-free, and open to users with disabilities, it’s going to be a lot more attractive to everyone who visits. Accessible websites usually have improved SEO results, greater reach, lower maintenance costs, and a higher level of corporate social responsibility.

The Laws about Website Accessibility

Although there are many benefits to accessible websites, it’s important to remember that they aren’t just optional. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines access to information and communications technologies, which includes the internet, as a basic human right. Most countries, including the US, have laws that require websites to meet certain accessibility standards. The web’s governing body, the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) has published accessibility guidelines based on four pillars:

  • Perceivable, meaning that users can perceive websites with their senses (mainly sight and hearing);

  • Operable by mouse, keyboard and assistive device;

  • Understandable without confusion;

  • Robust so as to be accessible by a range of technologies new and old.

In the US, government websites, educational organizations, and nonprofit groups are generally required to have accessible websites by Section 508 and 504 of the US Rehabilitation Act 1973. All websites have to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990, and Section 255 of the Communications Act which legislates that websites must be available equally to users with disabilities.

Some organizations have been successfully prosecuted for not having accessible websites. They were punished with hefty fines and their reputation was affected by the process. In many cases where the law isn’t clear about accessibility requirements, businesses have chosen to do all they can to be accessible instead of risking falling foul of the law.

Making your Website Accessible

Certain accessibility fixes are relatively easy to implement on your site, like changing your background color to white or adding captions to your videos. Others are a lot more complex to solve and require programming skills, such as setting heading hierarchies. We outline some of the main solutions for website accessibility and give advice on how to achieve them.

Accessibility for Users with Visual Disabilities

The internet is very visual, so one of the main types of disability to plan for when building an accessible website is visual disabilities. These can include:

  • Total or partial blindness

  • Poor vision

  • Color blindness

  • Difficulty distinguishing colors and contrasts

When you plan to accommodate users with visual disabilities, you’ll also be helping anyone who:

  • Is visiting your website on a mobile or tablet with a smaller screen

  • Has dyslexia and struggles to follow text instructions

  • Is using their device in bright sunlight or trying to cope with a lot of glare on the screen

  • Has epilepsy which can be triggered by flashing or blinking images

How to Make Your Site More Accessible for Visitors with Visual Disabilities

Accessible design includes:

Content The site must be easy to understand even when read aloud out of context by a screen reader tool.

FormattingPoorly formatted pages cannot be easily enlarged, navigated, or adjusted for better visibility.

Design and layout Many visitors with visual disabilities will find it hard to see contrasts or certain colors.

Here are the first things to check on your website to make sure that it is accessible for visitors with visual impairments:

  • Make sure that your titles describe the page clearly and are different from the titles of other pages so that blind users listening to an assistive screen reader can understand without the context of layout, and users with poor vision can get the information they need.

  • Optimize your site for voice search SEO, to make sure visually-impaired visitors can find it easily on search engines.