Accessibility Web Design Web Development

Why Web Accessibility Matters and How to Make Your Website More Accessible

What is web accessibility? Why is it important to your business? How to make your website more accessible? Read this post for the answers.

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As the world’s population ages and more and more people use the Internet, the need for accessibility grows. Not only does your website and application need to adapt to different browsers and speeds, it needs to adapt to the needs of those with visual, hearing, or other impairments. That’s why web accessibility is rapidly becoming a more important consideration when designing for today’s Internet.

What Is Website Accessibility?

A website is considered to be accessible if its content is easily available to everyone; no matter the level of impairment they might have. The World Wide Web Consortium has developed guidelines for making websites accessible. While the guidelines cover a wide range of accessibility issues, they can’t address the individual needs of every person. The goal is to present content in a way that is:

  • easily perceivable
  • easily operated
  • clearly understandable
  • able to be interpreted reliably

How Will Making Your Site Accessible Help People With Disabilities?

Visual Impairment

Visually impaired people can access their information with the help of “screen readers”. These programs read the printed text out loud, which helps unseeing people use computers and receive access to a text content of any kind. It also provides an opportunity to read a newspaper independently without waiting for expensive records and additional aids. They can just open the browser and listen to a screen-reader.

Physical Impairment

For people with physical disabilities, who can’t just pick up the paper and turn the pages they can get the access to online news portals with the help of their computer using technologies that were designed to adapt the computer interface to their disabilities.

Hearing Impairment

People who are hard of hearing have always had the opportunity to read the papers on their own. However, when it comes to video materials, they can read typed versions of important speeches or watch multimedia content with subtitles.

Why Accessible Design Matters

Unfortunately, many designers aren’t aware of accessibility issues or don’t think that the population requiring special accessibility is large enough to invest the time and resources necessary to connect in a meaningful way.

That’s a mistake. It’s currently too large a population to be ignored and the growth trend is upwards. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired. Estimates are that every day 100 more people begin to lose their sight. That’s an additional 36,500 people every year! The numbers represent real people; and that’s a huge number of people to ignore.

These numbers are only going to increase. Almost 90% of the population over the age of 65 has cataracts that affect color perception. The baby-boomer generation is aging and as they age they will encounter the normal vision and hearing problems associated with growing older. The baby-busters are hot on their heels and they are already voracious consumers of Internet content. That won’t change as they age.

In addition, many people with disabilities live in developing areas and are just now getting access to the Internet. As the internet penetrates deeper into these communities, you’ve got the opportunity to reach a larger audience if you’ve crafted your design to be accessible.

Just because a person has a vision, hearing, physical, or cognitive disability doesn’t mean that they don’t need access to your content. Making your design accessible won’t ruin the aesthetics or destroy functionality.

It will get your content in front of more viewers. Savvy designers know that to maximize reach, you’ve got to design to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Here at PSD2HTML we’ve seen an uptick in the number of clients requesting WCAG/508 compatibility, and offer the WCAG 2.0 code option as part of our conversion services.

Why Is Accessibility Important to Your Business?

You may ask, ‘How exactly will I benefit from accessibility?’ or ‘Why should I worry about making my site more accessible?’ Here are a couple of reasons why it is important to make your site more accessible for people with disabilities.

Increase Your Audience

If you do not feel the need to make your website more accessible, then you’re excluding a large amount of potential visitors to your website.

The web is there to provide information to everyone. There will definitely be people in your audience who are not able to see, hear or simply pick up the mouse, and it is up to you to make your website more accessible for them.

Improve Your Reputation

By making your website more accessible you will increase the customer satisfaction and, thus, improve or regain your website’s reputation.

Increase Usability

Making your web site more accessible will not only benefit people with disabilities. Increased usability ensures that your visitors can carry out their tasks effectively and efficiently.

Improve Search Engine Optimization

Web search engine has small “bots” that may not be able to understand pictures or make sense of complicated code. Making your site accessible will definitely improve your SEO ranking.

Ethics

People are all equal in their rights to receive information. It doesn’t matter if they speak a different language, have a certain disability, or lack access to a certain technology. Choosing to make your website more accessible to all your visitors goes to show that you really care about your audience.

Designing for Accessibility: Tips

People with visual disabilities may use screen reader apps to help them cruise the net and consume content. It’s important to keep in mind the requirements of screen-reader apps as well as the needs of the person using the app. Here are a few tips for website design.

Accessibility-Ready Themes

If you are a fan of WordPress themes, start with the one that has been tagged as accessibility-ready. These themes already take many of the following guidelines into consideration. Make use of the WP-Accessibility Plugin too.

Consistent Structure

Make sure you use a consistent layout. The main elements such as navigation and banners should appear in the same locations on every page. Make sure your markup is consistent as well. There should be only one h1 element per page and the content should be similar to the page’s title. Remember to use headings in the proper order.

Alt Text

Alternative text tags are for more than SEO. They should provide a textual and contextual description of the image. If the image is just decorative, you can handle it with CSS. If it contains content, the alt text should describe the function of the link and not the image itself. Remember that the text should allow a person who can’t see the image to get the same information as a person who can see it.

Forms

Keep forms as short as possible. Only ask for the information you need. Users with all levels of ability will appreciate this. If there are errors in the fields when the form is submitted, make sure the error is clearly indicated. General error messages can be hard enough for site visitors without disabilities to decipher. Make sure the error message clearly indicates which field in the form needs to be corrected.

Tables

Avoid using nested data tables. Visitors using assistive technologies may have problems navigating between cells. Include a brief summary of the table’s content in the summary text box.

Audio and Video Files

Video players and audio players should not be set to auto-play. Include closed captioning for videos and transcripts for audio files for the hearing impaired.

Color Usage

Don’t let color be the only way you convey information. For example, if you rely on color alone to show hyperlinks, your color blind audience might not be able to tell the difference in text. Did you know that almost 8% of the male population is color blind? Use underlines or borders to indicate links. Be mindful of the amount of contrast you use for the background color and the text color.

Auto Refresh

Don’t include pages that automatically reload on a periodic basis. Not all readers or screen readers will cover the material quickly and the user may not have finished reading the text before the page refreshes. Imagine how frustrating that would be!

PSD2HTML Makes Accessibility Easy

We understand that you want your designs to reach as many people as possible. That’s why when you start your order, we give you the option of coding to WCAG 2.0/Section 508 standards. You just check the box and we will do the rest. Not only will we convert your design flawlessly, but we’ll also deliver high-end HTML/CSS that renders on all modern browsers and works with assistive technology devices. We take care of the accessibility issues so you can focus on the design.

Dmitriy Maschenko

Dmitriy is the Head of a division at PSD2HTML, an experienced web developer, and a prolific author of in-depth technology and business-related posts. He is always eager to share his years-long expertise with everyone who wants to succeed in the web development field.