This article was written by Michelle Weger.
Twenty years ago, reliable access to the internet wasn’t a necessity.
Reliable internet access is so important to your everyday life that losing it is incredibly problematic.
You use the internet to shop.
To find jobs.
To stay in touch with family and friends.
To pay your bills.
And for many organizations and businesses, it’s the only option they offer – brick and mortar stores are closing, offices don’t have receptionists or customer service hours, and some businesses will refuse to hire anyone who doesn’t apply online.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to consider accessibility when building your website.
What is website accessibility?
Think of a set of stairs.
For many people, stairs are a part of everyday life. They’re in houses, buildings, and parks. Navigating them isn’t that much of a hassle… but that doesn’t apply to everyone.
People using wheelchairs.
Parents with strollers.
People who use a cane, walker, or crutches.
For them, stairs are a barrier to accessing something they need.
To overcome that barrier, things like ramps and elevators are installed so everyone can access the places they want or need to go.
Website accessibility means adding the equivalent of ramps or elevators to your website so that everyone can easily access your information, products, or services.
How do people with disabilities access websites?
Different people have different needs when it comes to website access.
While there are some devices meant specifically to assist with accessibility, many people are using computers, laptops, or smartphones with modifications.
Screen readers, for example, allow people to navigate online without needing to see the screen. This type of software enables text and image descriptions to be either read out loud or sent to a device that can output Braille. Screen readers can be either a separate device or an app installed on your smartphone.
Is there a checklist for website accessibility?
And it might be shocking to hear, but there shouldn’t be an accessibility checklist.
Think of the stairs example again.
If you own a building that has twelve floors, building ramps to each and every floor isn’t going to make sense. An elevator is a far more efficient and accessible solution.
But if you own a single-level house with two steps up to the front door, an elevator makes a lot less sense than a ramp.
Making your website accessible depends on how your website is laid out, what kind of content you have on it, and many other factors.
What should you do to make your website accessible?
Website accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated. By following basic guidelines and making reasonable accommodations, you create a website that is more inclusive and welcoming to everyone in your audience.
These are the most common things I talk about with new clients when creating new websites:
- Don’t rely on colours to communicate key information: For people with visual impairments, colours can make it difficult to distinguish information. Use a combination of text and colours to communicate anything on your website, and use proper contrast whenever possible. By making sure your text stands out against the background, you ensure your information is easily readable.
- Text on images should always have corresponding text on the page: screen readers can’t read text if it’s only on an image. If you have to put text on an image, make sure it is typed out elsewhere on the page so it can be read by screen readers.
- Include proper spacing: If you use emojis or ellipses (the … punctuation), ensure you include a space between them and the start of any word. Without the space, screen readers can’t recognize the word and so spell it out letter by letter.
- Add subtitles or include transcripts: Audio information should be presented in text wherever possible. This is also helpful for people who aren’t able to watch or listen to videos or podcasts at the time they’re using your website.
- Avoid flashing lights: You may think this is a great way to capture attention, but flashing images or videos are one of the most disruptive website features you can have. From triggering migraines to causing seizures, images or videos that flash quickly are something to avoid.
But the very best way to make sure your website is accessible?
Talk to a website designer who has a thorough understanding of accessibility standards and who knows how to implement them in a way that makes sense for your business.