Digital transformation has led to increased demand and needs for improve web accessibility. People use the internet to do so many things like access important information, buy goods, hire people, order food, and book trips and appointments.
However, not everyone can reap the benefits of this digital experience.
People living with disabilities who rely on accessibility tools to access the web cannot access 90% of the public and commercial websites. And with an estimated 15% of the world’s population suffering from some form of permanent disability, your website cannot reach them if it does not meet accessibility standards.
Besides, accessible content also proves helpful to those without disabilities, like users with slow internet connections.
So taking the effort and time to understand your users’ needs and making your site web-accessible gives you a huge edge over your competition. Besides, disabled users will become loyal to the websites they are most comfortable using. And their word-of-mouth advertising can prove beneficial to your website.
Luckily web accessibility is easy to implement.
You only need to understand the underlying issue of your inaccessible website. Once you know these issues, you can take the relevant steps to ensure your website meets accessibility requirements.
So here are 20 common ways and tips for implementing certain elements for improving accessibility to your website.
Top 20 tips & guidelines to make an accessible website
Website accessibility is essential because your website should generate maximum attention to benefit people to use it for as long as possible. An accessible website gets more customers and increases your website conversion rates.
As long as you detect these potential 20 errors in your website content, you will be able to get a rough idea of your website’s accessibility. You can accordingly make the necessary changes and ensure your site is accessible.
1. Use HTML headings to structure your web page content correctly
A carefully structured website with appropriate HTML headings improves the flow of your content, making it easier to understand. As a general rule of thumb, use only one H1 heading per tag and structure your headings in a hierarchical order. People with limited vision or blindness depend on assistive technology like screen readers to listen to headings.
2. Relevant images should always have alt text
Using alt text also helps improve your web accessibility. It helps because meaningful text alternatives aptly describe your website’s visual content. It’s important because visitors with visual impairment or cognitive disabilities and even devices or browsers that block images may see some of your images.
Applying alt text with the targeted keyword lets most screen readers read the image. Besides, alt tags for images also boost your page relevance for search engines to better understand what your web page is all about. Purely decorative images don’t need alt attributes.
3. Keep the website keyboard friendly
Your website must be keyboard-friendly because accessible sites should work without a mouse. So all of your site’s major features like pages, buttons, links, and content should be accessible by keyboard.
Besides, many assistive technologies rely on keyboard-only navigation. The best way to test your site keyboard-friendly is by using it without a mouse. If you can’t access some elements or find navigation difficult requiring precise movements, it means your site has accessibility issues.
4. Keep your forms simple
Forms are no doubt a useful and sometimes valuable addition to a website. However, it serves its purpose best only if carefully designed. It means users should find it easy to input information. And this is possible if each field has labels placed appropriately next to the respective fields.
This is a good practice because while sighted users will easily match labels to the right field or option, it can get challenging to screen reader users.
5. Use proper color contrast for website accessibility
Proper contrast of colors is important because it affects a person’s ability to read your content, especially with users having visual disabilities like color blindness. In fact, even an average user finds it difficult to read content with poor contrast, like the light grey font on a white background.
So make sure you maintain an optimal contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text between the font and background colors. You can also use tools to check for your page’s color contrast and let users adjust the page contrast to something suitable for them.
6. Use descriptive link text
Text links linking text to another page or website must correctly describe the link destination. This is very important because screen readers cannot understand the intent of CTA buttons with standard text like ‘Learn more”.
So website links should provide enough context for the user to know the purpose of the link, like a CTA worded ‘Click here for more web design information.
7. Create accessible site content
Your web content also determines your website accessibility. You must ensure your content is readable and accessible while creating content, especially with dynamic content. Dynamic content changes without the page reloading, which can be problematic if assistive tools aren’t informed of the change.
Screen readers will only read the page it appears on when it first loads, so informing the screen reader when something shifts ensure it doesn’t miss the new content. ARIA landmarks are tags you add to the content, which helps by clearly defining it.
ARIA also helps improve navigation for web accessibility as it lets users skip directly to specific content instead of having to tab through every menu to get to your main content.
It also helps to pay attention to minor details while creating content. For example, explain any acronyms in your content, and ensure all links have descriptive, unique anchor text and names. Also, provide closed captions and text alternatives for users with hearing or visual impairments if you embed videos or gifs into your website.
8. Have clear and consistent navigation
Your visitors can easily find their way in and out of pages if your website offers clear and consistent navigation. And the best way to achieve this is by offering them multiple alternatives. For example, a combination of a menu bar, search bar, breadcrumbs, and other orientation cues provides an accessible experience.
However, ensure you maintain consistency in navigation through all your web pages with consistent naming, styling, and placement of navigation elements.
9. Enable resizable text feature on web pages
Most browsers, devices, and even web pages permit users to resize text which proves helpful for those with visual impairments. However, resizing text features can also break your website design and structure if your website isn’t built to support the feature.
So check your font sizes by reducing or increasing your browser’s zoom level for better website accessibility. And never switch off user scalability as it only makes it difficult for users to resize text. Also, avoid using absolute units like pixels to specify text size.
Instead, use relative sizes, which lets the text scale depending on other screen sizes and content.
10. Use visible interactive page elements
Visible interactive page elements like unique links and buttons improve your website’s navigation. Besides, After improving navigation for web accessibility, provides a better user experience to people with physical, visual, and neurological disabilities.
11. Use tables only for tabular data
Tables prove helpful for displaying data because it’s easier for users, including those with assistive technology, to understand the data. It’s even better if you keep the tables as simple as possible. However, always use tables only for tabular data, not layouts or lists.
Tables used for layout purposes can make it challenging for screen reader users to understand the content. They may read the content in a way that doesn’t match the page’s visual order. It’s instead better to use a CSS presentation for your page layout.
12. Include captions and text transcripts
All audio files like sounds accompanying videos should be presented differently to auditory-impaired users. You can use closed captions, sign-language interpretation, and transcripts to help them understand your audio files.
Besides, having transcripts available for audio content proves convenient for people who prefer reading to listening to the content. For example, in situations where they cannot listen to audio, like when a baby’s sleeping or while at a library or cafe.
13. Avoid using flickering content
Flickering content is not only distracting and annoying to the user, but there’s also the risk of it triggering seizures in people with disabilities. So avoiding using any form of flickering content on your site lets users focus solely on your content purpose.
14. Use simple website designs
A simple and clean website design is easier for visitors to understand your content and clearly see important page elements like calls to action. Simple website designs also reduce bounce rates, improve conversions, and simplify mobile browsing. Besides, visitors with neurological or cognitive disabilities find complex website designs challenging to use and navigate.
15. Have multiple CAPTCHA options
While a CAPTCHA can prevent spam form fills, it doesn’t help website accessibility because users have to interpret unusual visual information. It is better to use PHP code to detect spam URLs for your forms.
You can alternatively configure forms to validate each field so that you can weed out entries deviating from certain parameters as spam.
16. Give more time for data inputs
It is good to set a time limit for filling up forms.
However, not all users with disabilities will fill out the form on time. You can improve web accessibility by informing the user about the time-out and letting them request more time if necessary.
17. Use clear and simple writing
Always be clear with your writing to avoid confusing your readers. Long sentences are challenging for people with limited short-term memory to read. And screen reader users won’t enjoy grabbing a dictionary to understand your writing.
So to avoid irritating your readers, ensure your content comprises of:
- Simple words and sentences
- Acronyms explained when using the first time
- A glossary of words your reader should know
- Lists, page titles, images, videos, and other media that divide your text
18. Include multiple contact options
Users with disabilities may prefer using other preferred methods to contact you. So it’s better to provide them with several contact options like phone, email, live chat, or text.
19: Offer users control over auto-playing content
It’s no doubt that auto-playing and looping content is a great attention-grabbing technique. However, it’s at the same time distracting, especially to users with cognitive disabilities, ADHD, and other problems. It’s better to allow users to control content playback and create a calm focus space.
However, do not include sound with your auto-play content as it ruins the experience of people using screen readers and text-to-speech technology.
20. Keep on testing and improving web accessibility
With accessibility guidelines and regulations constantly updating and evolving, there is no end to improving your web accessibility. You need to keep testing your site for accessibility compliance with both automated and manual tests.
How can I improve my Web Accessibility?
There are multiple strategies you can adopt to improve your web accessibility. You can use headings to correctly organize your page content, provide text descriptions in images and links, have an easy and accessible form, and use the right color combination.
What is an example of Web accessibility?
An example of web accessibility is any content or functionality that people with disabilities can access and use. Examples are keyboard accessibility, image alt text, and consistent navigation.
What is enhanced web accessibility?
Enhanced web accessibility involves removing all barriers in inaccessible websites that make it difficult for users to access, navigate or understand your website. It especially focuses on optimizing web accessibility for disabled users.
Is accessibility a legal requirement?
Yes, web accessibility is a right in many places like the United States, Canada, and European Union. So website owners should ensure their websites and content comply with their local legal requirements because failure to do so can only lead to subsequent violations.
Your website can break or do your business, depending on how accessible it is. It’s worth spending some time understanding your website and making improvements to ensure it is accessible to everyone. Make sure it complies with your country’s legal website accessibility regulations, and conduct simple manual or automated website audits to identify any accessibility issues.
And in case there are some ADA issues you can’t fix o your own, there are accessibility service companies and providers who can provide guidance. They will also perform an in-depth audit and recommend any further improvements.
Have a question?
We’re always here to help.
The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.