The Web is providing unprecedented access to information and interaction for people with disabilities. It provides people with disabilities opportunities to participate in society in ways otherwise not available. However, this possibility is not a reality throughout the Web as most websites have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use them. Web accessibility is about removing those barriers so that people with disabilities can use and contribute to the Web.
Web accessibility basically means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web.
If your business or organization wants to make sure your website is accessible for people with disabilities, where would you begin? Here are some key things to keep in mind when beginning to develop your website for accessibility.
There are four different major categories of disability types:
- Sight Related – That can be blindness, low vision and color-blindness.
- Hearing- Deafness and hard-of-hearing.
- Motor Skill – Inability to use a mouse, slow response time and limited fine motor control.
- Cognitive- Learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to remember or focus on large amounts of information.
Read How People with Disabilities Use the Webfrom WebAIM.
This resource introduces how people with disabilities use the Web. It describes tools and approaches that people with different kinds of disabilities use to browse the Web and the design barriers they encounter on the Web. It helps developers, designers, and others to understand the principles for creating accessible websites, web applications, browsers, and other web tools.
Image Alternative Text Tags
Alternative text equivalents, called alt text, are a clear example of web accessibility. Web pages often include images, but people with a sight related disability cannot see images. People who cannot see images can get the information contained in the images when web developers include alternative text equivalents for images. An alternative text equivalent provides the same functional information in text as the image provides visually.
Alt text is:
- Read by screen readers and voicing browsers
- Displayed in text browsers
- Displayed in graphical browsers when images are not downloaded
With equivalent alt text, the page is equally useful with or without images. Many websites today use images for navigation, where missing alt text makes the site totally unusable for a user with a sight related disability. Providing alt text improves accessibility without changing the visual appearance of the website.
Read WebAIM: Alternative Textto learn more about alt text tags and how to properly implement them with examples.
Captions for videos with audio is vital for accessibility. Captions are text describing sound in video or audio, such as people speaking and other important sounds. Captions are vital for people with a hearing related disability. Captions are also beneficial for people in a noisy environment who cannot hear audio.
Search engines do not have the ability to index the content of audio files. However, when you provide the captions as a text transcript, the information is available to search engines for indexing. Also, users can more easily find information in a text transcript, rather than trying to locate it in an audio file.
Read YouTube Captioningto learn how to incorporate video captioning for YouTube videos.
Websites should be designed so that they don’t require a specific type of device, such as a mouse to navigate or complete forms. This also helps “power users” who are faster with keyboard shortcuts, people needing to limit mouse use due to repetitive stress injuries (RSI), and people using mobile phones and other devices without a mouse. Ensure all users can access form elements such as text fields, checkboxes, and dropdown lists, along with completing, and submitting forms using a keyboard.
Read WebAIM: Keyboard Accessibility to learn how to make your website’s content and features keyboard accessible.
Clear and Consistent Design
People with some kinds of cognitive disabilities have difficulty processing visual information. They may not be able to use a website if the navigation is not clearly distinguished and consistent throughout the site. Clear and consistent design and navigation also benefits people who magnify web pages significantly and people with “tunnel vision” who see only a small part of the web page at a time. When the navigation is clearly distinguished, it is much easier to tell if you are in a navigation area or a content area.
Clear and consistent design and navigation also helps people without disabilities using mobile phones and other PDAs that have small displays (a “situational limitation”). Additionally, clear and consistent design and navigation increases usability for all users.
http://webaim.org/WebAIM provides many resources, and information regarding how to make websites accessible.
https://theweco.com/At WeCo we provide a free accessibility library that provides information on web accessibility for making your website accessible. WeCo also provides two types of human-based testing services. A low cost testing service that evaluates if you are on the right track, and a more detailed test that covers WCAG 2.0 guidelines and Section 508 standards.
http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards”Section 508 Standards
Incorporating accessibility from the beginning of a website development or redesign process is significantly easier, more effective, and less expensive than waiting until the end of a project. When accessibility is incorporated from the beginning, it is often a small percentage of the overall website cost. Most accessibility improvements are “under the hood” and don’t change the user experience for users without disabilities.