What does it mean to build an accessible website (and how do you do it?)

Create a small business website
Different people consume online content differently, and if a website is badly designed or missing certain elements, this is only amplified if you have a disability. In other words, millions of users rely on websites to be accessible.

According to a report by CDC, one in four adults in the US live with a disability. That’s a whopping 25% of the population; however, people with disabilities are often the last in line to have their needs considered when it comes to a company’s online presence. Many websites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers, making them difficult or impossible for some people to use. Below outlines the ?what” of web accessibility, why it requires your attention, and 5 simple ways to implement these considerations into your website.

What is Web accessibility?

For people with disabilities a day without the Internet is often a reality, and in times of a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the restrictions become even more obvious. With social distancing norms in place, more and more services are being digitised. Where does that leave people with disabilities” How do they get their basic needs met?

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. – Tim Berners-Lee

Web accessibility comes by to kick these problems to the curb. It is about designing websites that take our differences into account. More specifically, a website is truly accessible when everybody, irrespective of their hardware, software, language, location, or ability, can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web.

Who does web accessibility benefit?

Web accessibility supports social inclusion for users with special needs, disabilities, and/or impairments. However, website accessibility also benefits the following:

  1. People that use smartwatches, smart TVs, or devices with small screens
  2. People with temporary disabilities such as a broken hand
  3. People with a slow internet connection or a limited/expensive bandwidth
  4. Old people with changing abilities due to ageing
  5. People with situational limitations such as an environment where audio can’t be played

Why should you make your website accessible

Making your website accessible isn’t just a moral duty and social commitmentit’s the law. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) did not address the question of web accessibility for years, in 2018, Title III of the ADA was modified and reinterpreted to apply to websites as well.

For businesses that don’t comply with the A.D.A., the threat of being sued is very real.

If you want to keep your business safe from ADA web accessibility lawsuits (an accessibility demand letter can range up to $25,000 or more) and appeal to customers with disabilities, and feel that you are upholding the social fabric, you need an accessibility solution for your website

In fact, in 2016, pizza restaurant chain Domino’s was sued by a blind California resident, who claimed that the company’s mobile application was incompatible with his screen reader. Since getting sued can be an expensive affair, it is best to remember that prevention is better than finding cure. What’s more, improving accessibility on your website will benefit you, too. After all, it is a great way to build brand reputation, reach out to a wider audience, expand your potential user base, and boost revenue.

5 ways to make your website accessible

The significance of website accessibility is going to continue increasing, and for good reason. Given below are 5 things you can do to ward off potential lawsuits and to make for an inclusive user experience.

Add images with Alt tags

Alt tags, also known as alt attributes, alt text, or alt descriptions are the little words that pop up when you hover your mouse over an image. This field can be used to communicate the message of an image to those that would otherwise miss it.

Alt tags should be used to describe an image as accurately as possible. Assistive technologies such as screen-readers can be used to read this text aloud, thus conveying to the user what the image is about. As if that weren?t enough, alt tags can also help improve your site’s SEO.

Make your site keyboard-friendly

In simple words, for a website to be accessible, one should be able to navigate it without the use of a mouse. This is because people with mobility disabilities may not be able to use a mouse properly. Furthermore, several assistive technologies rely on keyboard for navigation. The tab and arrow keys are most commonly used to navigate using a keyboard, meaning users are able to access your site’s major features using these few buttons and these few buttons alone.

Choose colors with care

Different people perceive colors differently. Particularly, it is important to avoid pairing the colors red and green because 99% of those colorblind ‘suffer from red-green color deficiencythe inability to distinguish between (shades of) red and green. Another good practice is to make generous use of white spaces or borders.

Leverage content that’s easy to consume

Put simply, do everything in your capacity to increase readability of your text. Some simple ways to do this include:

  1. Use headers to structure your content correctly. Clear headers will make your content much easier to understand and digest.
  2. Enable resizable text that doesn’t hamper your site’s design. This can prove incredibly helpful for users with visual impairments.
  3. Minimise the use of tables as much as possible tables can be highly confusing for screen readers users.
  4. Make buttons with hyperlinks larger so that those with mobility disabilities are able to click on it easily.

The takeaway: Website accessibility matters

Making your website accessible to everybody should be a top priority, especially because it is quite easy to accomplish. Not only will this make for a more inclusive society, but it will also bring you more traffic and conversions in the long-run!

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