Nearly one in five people in the United States has a disability, and that number will only increase as the population ages. So all website owners need to make their sites accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. Here are some tips to help make your site more accessible, according to experts like accessiBe and others.
Before we start, it’s important to note that there isn’t a specific set of rules for what makes a website accessible. Instead, it varies depending on the disabilities you’re targeting and the technologies available to those people. That said, all accessibility guidelines share one principle: they make sure people with disabilities can use your site, too.
According to WebAIM .org, web accessibility includes four principles:
- The site must be perceivable
- The site must be operable
- The site must be understandable
- The site must be robust
Making Sites Perceivable
One simple way to make your site more accessible is by adding alt tags (alternative text) to your images. This tells search engines what the picture is and provides screen readers with the text they can use to describe it out loud for visually impaired people.
In WebAIM.org’s survey of users with disabilities, they found that more than half were using some sort of assistive technology—a screen reader, a magnifier, or a Braille display—to access the internet. Don’t rely on color as the only visual cue to help people who can’t see your images.
Making Sites Operable
One of the most important things to remember is that you should always use a keyboard-only interface when possible. Including links on your site and social media to full versions of content (video, audio, and images) will make it easier for people with visual impairments and motor disabilities to interact with your site. You can also add keyboard shortcuts to navigate the site quickly.
Another suggestion is that your site should avoid automatically playing videos or music; it can be disorienting for people with attention deficit issues to hear audio without warning suddenly. You might also consider text captions for any video content like YouTube does.
Making Sites Understandable
One of the best ways to make your site understandable is to make it scannable or easy to read the paragraphs of text on your site. You can do this by breaking up long blocks of text into smaller chunks with subheadings. This will help people read through your content and allow search engines to understand better what your site is all about.
Another way to help people read the text on your site is by removing all unnecessary clutter. This includes ads, links, and other elements unrelated to the content you’re trying to share. If someone lands on a page with many different links, they’ll have a tough time picking which one they should click. Removing excess links helps keep the focus on what you’re sharing.
Making Sites Robust
One of the best things someone can do to help themselves read your content is to use assistive technologies like screen readers, magnification, and fonts that increase readability for people with low vision. A growing number of text-to-speech assistants are also available if users want to listen to your site.
If you’re sharing video content on your site, there are different ways you can make it accessible too. For instance, provide closed captioning when possible. The popular service YouTube provides this feature by default when people upload videos, but all users must have access to this option whenever they want to use it.