You may be familiar with the term “web accessibility”, however, have you looked at your own website to see if it meets all the criteria? Web accessibility is defined as the practice of providing various usability features that ensure people with disabilities have no barriers to accessing or interacting with websites or online applications. Types of disabilities that may impede a person’s ability to use a website include:
- Visual impairments – including blindness, poor eyesight, or color blindness
- Mobility impairments – inability to use hands, tremors, loss of muscle control
- Auditory – deafness or hearing impairments
- Seizures – caused by flashing effects
- Cognitive and intellectual – developmental disabilities, learning difficulties, cognitive disabilities
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990 provided rights to people with disabilities in areas that are considered “places of public accommodation” such as restaurants, museums, hotels, schools, and doctors offices. Recent lawsuits have concluded that websites can also be considered places of public accommodation and over the past couple years, strides are being made by law makers to include web accessibility standards under the ADA.
As a part of our website design audit (https://apxdsgn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Website-Audit-Worksheet-APX-Design.pdf), we provide a general set of guidelines that, when adhered to, provide a majority of accessibility features that are available to include within a website. These guidelines include:
- Provide captions for all videos and/or audio clips
- Do not set audio and video to play automatically
- Do not display any elements that flash repeatedly for an extended period of time
- Add alt text for all non-text content
- Add title element to all links
- Add aria-label attribute when text label is not visible on the screen
- Use heading tags where applicable
- Use appropriate visual contrast ratio for text
- Provide options for easy resizing of fonts
- All user interface components should be operable by keyboard
- Include bypass navigation (skip to content link)
- Include Input assistance (labels for form fields, error messages for incorrect info entered in forms)
This list may cover a majority of basic websites, however a more comprehensive set of accessibility features may be needed depending on the nature of the website. For a more comprehensive list and customizable quick reference to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, visit https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref/. There are also a variety of free tools available that will scan your website to detect conformance with accessibility standards.
Web Accessibility audit tools
Website accessibility tools for WordPress
To make it easier to ensure website accessibility standards are met on your website, WordPress developers have created a variety of plugins that help to manage accessibility features.
- WP Accessibility – This plug-in helps with a variety of common accessibility problems in WordPress themes.
- Divi for accessibility – Fixes a few of the missing accessibility features for Divi theme users
- Zeno Font Resizer – Provides one major accessibility feature – the ability to manually adjust the size of fonts on a web page
- ADA Plugin – Provides the ability to scan your entire website for WCAG, ADA, and Section 508 compliance and provides a detailed report
The business case for web accessibility
On a final note, web accessibility is not only good for your website’s users, but it benefits your business as well.
Depending on the nature of your business and function of your website, it may be considered a “place of public accommodation” and so you could be liable to lawsuits if it does not conform to website accessibility standards.
Improved User Experience
Regardless of legal requirements, maintaining basic accessibility standards is simply good for usability. Making your site easier to use for all your customers makes it a more enjoyable experience and improves your chance of gaining a customer rather than losing one due to a poor user experience.
ADA compliance and SEO share common goals to improve the user experience of websites. Search engines are now focused on ranking websites that provide not only great content, but also a great user experience and so will determine a variety of usability factors in their search algorithm.
Website accessibility guidelines should not be an afterthought when designing your website, but should instead be used to help guide its design and development from the start. As many as 1 in 5 people in the United States have been reported as having some type of disability. Because of this, it is essential that your website adheres to accessibility standards in order to ensure you that the needs of all of your customers are being met.