Ensuring Inclusive User Experience
As the internet becomes more integrated into our daily lives, it’s essential to ensure that everyone can access the information and services available online. Unfortunately, not all websites are designed with accessibility in mind, making it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to use them. That’s where accessibility standards come in.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of web accessibility, the importance of following accessibility standards, and how to implement them on your website. We’ll also touch on some common misconceptions about accessibility and provide resources for further reading.
Understanding Web Accessibility
Web accessibility refers to the inclusive design and development of websites that enable all users, including those with disabilities, to navigate and interact with content effectively. Websites that aren’t accessible can be frustrating and limiting for people with disabilities, hindering their ability to access vital information, products, or services.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. These disabilities may be physical, cognitive, visual, or auditory. Web accessibility aims to address these barriers by providing an inclusive user experience for all users, regardless of their abilities.
The Importance of Following Accessibility Standards
Following accessibility standards ensures that your website is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. In addition to providing an inclusive user experience, there are legal requirements to consider. In many countries, including the United States, websites must comply with accessibility laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Failure to comply with these standards can result in lawsuits, financial penalties, and damage to your brand’s reputation. Making your website accessible not only ensures compliance with legal requirements but also demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility.
Overview of WCAG 2.1 Guidelines
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that outlines the best practices for making web content accessible. WCAG 2.1 is the most recent version of these guidelines, released in 2018. WCAG 2.1 is organized into four principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR). Each principle includes specific guidelines and success criteria for achieving accessibility.
These guidelines cover areas such as:
- Providing alternative text for images and non-text content
- Make sure that all content is keyboard Accessible.
- Ensuring that the color contrast between text and background is sufficient for people with low vision.
- Making sure that content can be accessed with assistive technology such as screen readers.
- Providing captions and transcripts for audio and video content
Following these guidelines can help ensure that your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
Implementing Accessibility Standards on Your Website
Ensuring that your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is crucial for creating an inclusive user experience. Implementing accessibility standards may seem daunting, but taking the necessary steps can greatly improve the usability and reach of your website. Here are some detailed tips on how to implement accessibility standards on your website:
- Conduct an Accessibility Audit
The first step in implementing accessibility standards is to conduct an accessibility audit. This process will help you identify areas of your website that need improvement to meet accessibility guidelines. You can conduct an audit yourself using tools like WAVE or hire an accessibility consultant such as EcomBack to perform an audit.
During our free audit, we will examine your website for barriers that could prevent people with disabilities from using your website. These barriers can include, but are not limited to, poor color contrast, inaccessible forms, and missing alt text for images. Once we have identified areas of improvement, we can begin to implement changes to make your website more accessible.
- Use an Accessible Content Management System (CMS)
When choosing a content management system (CMS) for your website, make sure that it is accessible by design. One popular CMS that offers a range of accessibility features and plugins is WordPress. WordPress includes built-in accessibility features, such as keyboard navigation, and plugins that can add features like automatic alt text for images.
By choosing an accessible CMS, you can save time and ensure that your website is accessible to a wider range of users from the start.
- Ensure That All Images Have Alt Text
Alternative text (alt text) is a brief description of an image that can be read by assistive technology, such as screen readers. Providing alt text for images ensures that users with visual impairments can understand the content of the image. In addition to providing accessibility benefits, alt text can also improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of your website.
When creating alt text, make sure that it is descriptive and concise. Avoid using generic phrases like “image of” and instead provide a brief description of the image’s content and context.
- Make Sure All Content is Keyboard Accessible
Not all users can use a mouse to navigate your website. Ensure that all content on your website can be accessed using only the keyboard. This means that users can use the “tab” key to navigate through links and forms, and the “enter” key to activate them.
To test keyboard accessibility, try navigating your website without using a mouse. If you find that certain elements are difficult to access or activate, consider making changes to improve keyboard accessibility.
- Ensure That Color Contrast is Sufficient
For users with low vision, sufficient color contrast between text and background is essential. Ensure that the color contrast on your website meets accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
One tool that can help you test color contrast is the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker. This tool provides a pass/fail rating based on the contrast ratio of your text and background colors. If your website fails the contrast check, consider making changes to improve the readability for users with low vision.
- Provide Captions and Transcripts for Audio and Video Content
Providing captions and transcripts for audio and video content ensures that users with hearing impairments can access your content. Captions are a text-based representation of spoken words and sound effects, while transcripts are a written version of the audio content.
When creating captions and transcripts, ensure that they are accurate and synchronized with the audio or video content. This will provide a seamless and accessible experience for users who rely on captions and transcripts to understand your content. For an example of video content with transcripts, see the video on our homepage and click on View Transcript under it.
- Test Your Website with Assistive Technology
To ensure that your website is accessible to users with disabilities, it’s important to test it with assistive technology. Screen readers, voice recognition software, and other assistive technology can help you identify potential accessibility issues and ensure that your website is fully accessible to all users.
During testing, try to use a variety of assistive technology to simulate the experiences of users with different disabilities. This will help you identify potential issues and ensure that your website is accessible to as many users as possible.
Finally, it’s important to train your team on the importance of web accessibility and how to implement accessibility standards on your website. Ensure that everyone on your team understands the importance of creating an inclusive user experience and has the knowledge to make your website accessible to all users.
You can provide training through workshops, online courses, or by hiring an accessibility consultant to provide training tailored to your website’s specific needs.
Common Misconceptions About Accessibility
Web accessibility is crucial in ensuring that all individuals can access and use websites and digital content. However, there are many misconceptions about web accessibility that may prevent website owners and designers from implementing accessibility standards. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about web accessibility and why they are inaccurate:
- Accessibility is Only Necessary for Blind Users:
While accessibility is undoubtedly essential for blind users, it is not just blind individuals who benefit from accessibility. Other groups that require accessibility include users with hearing impairments, motor impairments, cognitive impairments, and more. For example, users with motor impairments may require the use of a keyboard to navigate a website, while users with cognitive impairments may benefit from clear and straightforward language.
- Accessibility is Too Expensive:
While it is true that implementing accessibility standards may incur costs, the cost of not doing so can be much higher. The cost of potential fines, legal fees, and damage to a brand’s reputation can far outweigh the costs of making a website accessible. Moreover, accessibility can also help increase a website’s usability, improve customer satisfaction, and increase engagement. Contact us for a quote to remediate your website for accessibility.
- Accessibility Will Ruin My Design:
Many website owners and designers believe that implementing accessibility standards will negatively impact their website’s design. However, this is not true. In fact, accessible design can enhance a website’s usability and improve the user experience for all users. Implementing accessible design principles, such as using proper contrast ratios, alt tags for images, and descriptive link text, can also improve a website’s SEO.
- Accessibility is Only Necessary for Government Websites:
While some countries have laws that require government websites to be accessible, accessibility is vital for all websites, regardless of the industry or sector. All individuals, regardless of their abilities, have the right to access and use digital content. Moreover, websites that prioritize accessibility demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and diversity, which can positively impact a brand’s reputation and customer loyalty.
Web accessibility is essential for creating an inclusive user experience and complying with legal requirements. Implementing accessibility standards on your website can be a complex process, but it’s a necessary one. By following best practices and educating yourself and your team, you can ensure that your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
To get a free accessibility audit for your website, book a free call with our experts.