Making Website Accessibility a Priority
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Title II of the ADA helps ensure that websites for government organizations have accessible features. At GovUnity we make website accessibility a priority and work diligently to ensure that each site we develop is ADA compliant.
Beyond that, we also make accessibility best practices a part of our training with customers. This helps ensure that their website’s accessibility is maintained even as content is added and updated by staff and website administrators. Remember, just because a website was accessible at one point does not mean that it will continue to be. Below are three questions you need to ask about website accessibility.
Why is Website Accessibility a Priority?
There are several reasons website accessibility should be a priority. The primary reason is that it ensures all of your website visitors have the best user experience possible. This is because it helps all users access the information they need from your site.
In addition, WC3 Website Accessibility Initiative classifies accessibility as a web design best practice in the same vein as things like website responsiveness. This means that accessible sites will perform better in search results and have a better audience reach. Making your website accessible also helps reduce maintenance costs for your site. The best way to begin approaching website accessibility is to consider the ways your website is not friendly to people with disabilities.
What Barriers to People with Disabilities Face?
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when designing your website is to assume that everyone is able to access web pages in the same way. There are many barriers that people with disabilities face when navigating online. But there is a lot of technology that helps people overcome these barriers. It is necessary to note this technology when designing a website.
There are screen readers and text enlargement technology that help people access the written information on your website. It is important to consider whether or not your website and its content is compatible with this technology. People also use voice control programs for their computer, or keyboard navigation instead of mouses or trackpads. Just as your site should be responsive for use on different devices, it should also be easy to navigate using different methods.
What are Some Best Practices?
There are several best practices to consider when designing your website to make it more accessible:
- Make sure the functionality of your website is accessible through mouse, keyboard, and voice control systems. This is best achieved by having a person that uses these assistive technologies test your website. The next best method is to test the website manually, either yourself or with the help of an accessibility expert.
- Provide visual access to audiovisual content, through transcription or captioning. Remember, transcripts and captions must include both the audio content and a description of visual content. This helps people that use screen readers better experience your multimedia content.
- Use alternative (alt) text for images. Alt text helps screen readers and other assistive technology users’ access images on your website. Alt text should be a relevant description of the image – this is NOT a place for “keyword stuffing”.
- Don’t rely on color as the main tool for navigation/links or to distinguish between items on the website. Users with low vision or color blindness will have trouble differentiating between links and other content if color is the only cue. Add an underline or hover effect to your links as another way to differentiate from other content.
- Schedule regular accessibility audits for your website. Whether you have an in-house accessibility manager or partner with a third-party accessibility expert your website needs evaluated regularly. Audit frequency can depend on how often your content is updated and how many website administrators have access to your website. However, We generally recommend your website be audited every six to 12 months.
For more best practices check out these 7 common website accessibility mistakes. If you are not sure that your website is ADA compliant contact us for a free website accessibility assessment.