All you have to do is sit next to someone with impaired vision to understand how frustrating it can be when website designers haven’t taken accessibility into account. And sadly, it’s remarkably common.
Did you know that unless your website is designed with everyone in mind, whatever their abilities or disabilities, you could face prosecution? In Britain it’s the law – the same principles apply online as they do to, say, access to a high street shop or an office building.
So what does website accessibility involve, and how can you make sure you don’t fall foul of the nation’s accessibility legislation?
What is website accessibility?
Web accessibility means being inclusive, in other words removing all the barriers that prevent people with disabilities accessing and using a site. When you get it right you give everyone equal access to the information it contains as well as full website functionality.
Here are just some of the things a professional website design company will take into account when designing, building and developing your site:
- Semantically valid HTML code, descriptive text equivalents for images and properly-named links… al of which mean blind users can translate your site using text-to-speech software or text-to-Braille hardware
- Large or enlargeable text helps people with poor sight can read your content more easily
- Underlined, coloured links are easier to see too
- Making links nice and big, whether it’s linking from a sentence instead of a single word or linking from an excellent, bright image, helps people who find it difficult to manipulate a mouse
- When you code your pages so people can navigate using just the keyboard, or a particular single access device, it also helps those who can’t use a mouse
Writing your web content in plain English makes your message accessible to people from every educational background. Plain English is never dull. It’s just clear, and being clear doesn’t mean you can’t wax lyrical
- Avoiding jargon and industry-speak helps people outside your sphere understand your business
- When you support text with diagrams, images and animations, it helps dyslexic users get the message
- When your colour contrast is definite and precise, it’s much easier for people to read your content than a website with shades of a similar tone, with little contrast. A compelling colour palette is something any good graphic designer knows how to do
- Captioning video properly and providing a detailed text version of its content lets everyone enjoy your videos
- When you provide a sign language version of video, deaf and hard of hearing people can also enjoy your content
- When you make flashing light effects Optional or, better still, avoid them altogether, you keep vulnerable users safe from flashing light-related seizures
Ideally, you’ll do all of this, making your site a pleasure for everyone to use. And it needn’t be onerous. When it’s done properly from the offset, accessibility doesn’t affect your site’s overall appeal. How come? Because being accessible is nothing more than common sense. In fact, an inaccessible site can be just as much of a pain to use for people without disabilities. Best practice benefits everyone.
The SEO bit…
There’s another positive side effect of being fully accessible. Adding transcripts of videos, for example, and giving images adequately descriptive names, means there’s also a search engine optimisation benefit. Because search engine bots can’t ‘see’ what an image or moving image is about, providing a written alternative helps them do a better job of classifying, ranking and rating your site in the search results.
Web accessibility in a nutshell
Here are the impairments you should consider in an ideal world:
- Visual – blindness, poor eyesight and colour blindness
- Mobility – difficulty using the hands
- Auditory – deafness and hearing impairments
- Seizures – seizures from strobes or flashing images
- Cognitive – developmental and learning disabilities including dyslexia and dyscalculia
More details about online accessibility
Here are some more reliable sources of information:
- You’ll find the full story on Wikipedia
- Here’s a popular paid-for accessibility checker tool for checking website compliance
- Here’s a link to the web accessibility initiative
- Here’s some useful insight from the BBC
- And here’s more from website accessibility
We do it right
As professional graphic designers and experienced digital marketers, we know how to get it right for your audience, whether you’re operating B2B or B2C.