Digital accessibility is a fundamental aspect of modern web development. It ensures that technology and online content are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. In the United States, a significant portion of the population faces disability-related challenges.
Understanding and prioritizing compliance is crucial to cater to this diverse audience and tap into the potential of a more inclusive digital experience. Remember that accessibility is an ongoing journey, and it’s essential to continuously seek feedback from users with diverse needs to refine and ensure accessible digital content.
Top 12 Tips on How to Build Accessible Forms
To help you navigate the landscape of digital accessibility, we’ve compiled a list of 12 valuable tips for building accessible digital forms.
1. Understand the Importance of Digital Accessibility
Before diving into the specifics, it’s essential to grasp why digital accessibility matters. In the U.S., approximately 62% of adults with disabilities say they own a computer. As people age, the prevalence of disability increases significantly.
To cater to this diverse audience and tap into the potential of a more inclusive digital experience, understanding and prioritizing accessibility is crucial.
2. Make Accessibility a Part of Internal Training
By integrating a focus on accessibility into internal training, employees can play an active role in promoting accessibility across all facets of a company’s operations. The training could cover areas such as challenging unconscious biases, assistive technology, understanding the disability landscape, and emphasizing the importance of accessible solutions.
3. Start with Easy Website Accessibility Action Items
Kickstart your journey toward creating more accessible content by incorporating these straightforward tips into your workflow:
- Don’t rely on color alone to convey information. Use other cues, such as labels and symbols.
- Ensure predictable navigation between questions and pages.
- Avoid visually demanding question formats and opt for simpler multiple-choice answers.
- Eliminate CAPTCHA verification or provide accessible alternative errors beyond using red text.
- Save user answers to prevent data loss and user frustration.
- Confirm successful form submissions with clear notifications.
4. Go Beyond Following Web Page Accessibility Guidelines
While accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide essential guidelines, they do not stop at mere compliance. Approach accessibility holistically by considering your visitors’ experiences.
Seek feedback from potential visitors, especially those with impairments, to understand their needs and challenges. Make incorporating compliance guidelines an integral part of your design, ideation, and optimization process.
5. Validate Web Accessibility
Validation is a critical step in web compliance that involves identifying bugs or design flaws that hinder access for individuals with disabilities. Accessibility testing helps uncover and rectify issues that prevent these users from accessing your site and content effectively.
6. Ensuly Associated Labels for Form Elements
Each form field should have an informative and descriptive label associated with it. This labeling approach enhances user understanding and accessibility, particularly for screen reader users.
7. Limit Visually-Demanding Question Formats
Complex question formats, with interactive elements such as grids and tables, can overwhelm users, especially those with visual disabilities. Opt for simpler formats like multiple-choice questions whenever possible.
8. Avoid CAPTCHA Verification
Although intended for security, CAPTCHA tests can be challenging for those with vision impairments. Use alternative methods and operating systems for verification, such as text-based challenges or alternative security measures.
When someone interacts with an online form and makes a mistake, like missing a required field or entering information incorrectly, they need to know what went wrong and how to fix it. This is where error messages come into play.
Imagine you’re filling out a form, and you forget to enter your email address. You might not realize what’s missing or needs correction without a clear error message. You’d be stuck, not knowing how to proceed.
Instead of turning a field’s border red when there’s an error, display a message next to placeholder text saying something like, “Please enter your email address.” This way, even if someone can’t see the red color, they still understand what they need to correct.
9. Save User Answers
Prevent user frustration by saving answers even in the presence of errors. This approach not only enhances the user experience but also aids users in identifying and correcting their mistakes.
10. Confirm Successful Form Submissions
Always provide clear and bold notifications to inform participants that they have successfully submitted the form and can proceed. Additionally, consider offering information about the next steps or links to available resources.
11. Ensure That Form Elements Include Associated Labels for Screen Readers to Read
When filling out a form online, you encounter various fields to input information like your name, email address, or phone number. Usually, there’s a label or a description right next to or above the field that tells you what information is expected.
Some people with disabilities use screen readers or software programs that read aloud the content on a website for those with visual impairments. When these users navigate an online form, they rely on these screen readers to tell them what each form field is for.
To ensure that everyone can easily understand and interact with the form, each field must have a label or description that’s closely linked to it. So when a screen reader encounters a field, it immediately announces what information is expected without confusion.
Clear labels benefit everyone by making the form easy to understand, whether looking at it or relying on a screen reader. It’s like providing clear road signs that help you navigate smoothly through the online form, ensuring a more accessible website and user-friendly experience for everyone.
12. Limit Visually-Demanding Question Formats
Complex question formats, such as grids and tables, can overwhelm users, especially those with visual impairments. Opt for simpler formats like multiple-choice questions whenever possible.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked on an everyday basis:
- 1. How do I make an online form more accessible?
There are five tips to use to create an accessible form. This includes labeling inputs, sending error messages, avoiding horizontal layout forms where possible, having short and not long sections, and highlighting focused input elements.
- 2. How do I make ADA-compliant forms?
Some steps to making ADA-compliant forms include:
- Having a layout that’s easy to navigate and use
- Keyboard accessible forms
- Using text labels with form controls and inputs
- Including descriptive error messages
- Highlighting necessary form fields
- 3. How do I make digital content accessible?
Maintaining a proper structure, using the right color palette, simple and easy-to-understand language, and using a large, easy-to-read sans-serif font helps.
- 4. What is a digital accessibility strategy?
It revolves around designing digital products and experiences that everyone can use. It involves designing the website so that users with disabilities can use assistive technology and devices to access the content.
Digital accessibility is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a commitment to ensuring that technology is accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. These 12 tips for building accessible digital forms help create a more inclusive online environment and cater to a broader audience.
Remember that this is an ongoing journey, and it’s essential to continuously seek feedback from users with diverse needs to refine and enhance your digital content and forms. If you need assistance creating compliant digital forms, the experts at ADA Site Compliance can help create them. Get a FREE SITE SCAN today!
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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.