Okay, so the site is done. You’ve put in all of the proper search words, you’ve launched, and you’ve started getting complaints about individuals having difficulty reading or navigating your site.
Where did you go wrong? You probably didn’t ensure the site was accessible. This is a problem with many websites, and something that we as a community are trying to correct though we sometimes forget ourselves.
The word of the day? Accessibility
Accessibility in website development refers to the practice of designing and developing websites in such a way that they can be accessed and used by everyone, including people with disabilities. The importance of accessibility in website development cannot be overstated, as it helps to ensure that websites are usable by a wider range of users, including those who might have physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.
Why is it important?
This shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, but sometimes you have to convince your clients why they should do something even if they don’t perceive the value. The reasons why accessibility is important in website development, and why businesses should look to making their marketing material inclusive for all to access is simple:
Legal compliance (and the bottom dollar)
In many countries, including the United States, the UK, and the European Union, there are laws that require websites to be accessible to people with disabilities. Failure to comply with these laws can result in costly legal action and huge monetary penalties. Basically, the client will pay more later for not doing it now.
Increased usability (and …ahem… the bottom dollar)
Accessible websites are easier to use for everyone, not just people with disabilities. For example, a website with clear navigation and a simple layout is easier to use for someone with a visual impairment as well as someone without. More users leads to more conversions and leads leads to more purchases which leads to more revenue (so more money).
Improved SEO (and …ahem…ahem… the bottom dollar)
Search engines like Google prioritize sites that are accessible and user-friendly, so making your website accessible can improve its search engine rankings. More visibility leads to visitors leads to more users leads to … are you seeing a pattern.
Social responsibility (and …no seriously… the bottom dollar)
Making your website accessible is just the right thing to do. It shows that you care about all users and are committed to ensuring that everyone can access your website. This is important for creating brand trust which all leads back to more users and increased chances for more revenue.
Okay, well… How do I get there?
Accessibility as a development practice can be overwhelming. However, as with all things, starting with the basics can provide a best practice approach to providing clients and their customers with engaging, accessible content. Here are some best practices for ensuring accessibility in development projects:
Use semantic HTML
Semantic HTML provides structure and context to content on a website, making it easier for people with disabilities to navigate and understand. Simply put, semantic HTML is how you construct the page with proper headings, hierarchy, paragraphs, and lists as well as using HTML container such as the header, footer, section, and aside blocks.
Provide alt text for images
Alt text is a short description of an image that appears when the image cannot be displayed. This is important for people with visual impairments who use screen readers to navigate a website.
Use clear, readable fonts
Fonts that are too small or difficult to read can make it challenging for people with visual impairments to access content on a website.
Provide captions and transcripts for videos
Captions and transcripts make videos accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Use color contrast appropriately
Poor color contrast can make it difficult for people with visual impairments to read text on a website. Use high contrast between text and background colors to ensure readability.
By just sticking with the basics of accessibility,, you can create websites that are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or differences.
What can I use to help me make my site accessible
Just like with any other problem, there are a myriad of solutions. A lot of the time, you will need to rely on more than one solution for the problem as accessibility as a process can be multifaceted and needs more than one approach. These should be considered to be tools in your accessibility toolbox as opposed to options to help you create websites that are usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. Here are some good tools to consider:
A good Content Management Systems (CMS)
CMS platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla offer a variety of accessible themes and plugins that can help you create accessible websites. These platforms are also designed to be user-friendly and easy to use, which can make the process of creating an accessible website less daunting.
Use a Framework
Web development frameworks such as Bootstrap, Foundation, and Materialize provide pre-built, accessible components that you can use to create accessible websites. These frameworks are responsive and designed to work well on different devices and screen sizes.
Take advantage of Accessibility Testing Tools
Accessibility testing tools such as WAVE, Axe, and Lighthouse can help you identify accessibility issues on your website and suggest ways to fix them. These tools can save you time and effort by automating accessibility testing and providing actionable feedback.
Web Accessibility Guidelines
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a set of guidelines for creating accessible websites. These guidelines cover a wide range of accessibility issues, including color contrast, keyboard accessibility, and alternative text for images. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your website is accessible to a wide range of users.
If you need them, ask an Accessibility Consultant
If you want to ensure that your website is fully accessible, you can hire an accessibility consultant to help you. Accessibility consultants can review your website and provide feedback on accessibility issues, as well as suggest ways to fix them.
By using these options for accessible web development, you can create websites that are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.