Designing a new website is all about the look and feel of the site; graphics, colors, font, usability, content, layout and so-on. It’s easy to get caught up in all of that and accidentally overlook a very important aspect of site design.
Website accessibility is easy to forget, especially for those of us who don’t know anyone who requires the added site features. Sure, using alt-text for site pictures is good for SEO, but that misses the real purpose of this, and other, accessibility features. And that’s too bad, because it really doesn’t take much more work to create a website functions well for your vision-impaired audience.
You need to start by having a basic idea of how accessibility features work. Put simply, they read off what is available on the screen, and the user hears what everyone else can see. Pictures are described (description provided by you) and links are read out (based on anchor text). Without accurate descriptions, pictures and links become meaningless.
It doesn’t take much to create an accessible website. Follow these quick tips, and you’ll be well on your way to a website that anyone can use with ease.
- Use alt-text and image/video descriptions wisely. These aren’t intended to be places to throw in extra keywords. Describe what the picture or video is in a way that clearly states the connection it has to your content.
- Use descriptive and accurate anchor text. “Click here” doesn’t tell anyone (vision-impaired or not) what is on the other side of the link. Your anchor text should say what the link is. This is also a good time to use a brief description of your links, providing more information for those who need it.
- Use navigation, or “skip” links at the start of longer content. Give people the opportunity to skip over the content they don’t need and get right to what they are looking for. Navigation links help users to go straight to the part of your content that they need, instead of listening to their reader software read through a long piece of content.
- Reconsider website colors. Be wary of using color to show meaning (red for stop, for example), or using low-contrasting colors on your website. Not everyone with a vision impairment is blind; some are color blind or have difficulty differentiating between similar colors.
- Provide alternative content. If you post video or audio content, have a text version available for hearing impaired users.
- Create consistent and rational forms. Label input fields with the question, to make it easier to tell what information is meant to go where.
- Use CSS to create forms instead of importing tables. Website accessibility readers rarely have problems interpreting a table created with CSS, while they may not be able to access information set into an imported table graphic.
Website accessibility is important. Give everyone the same chance to enjoy your website. For more information on site accessibility, including more tips on making your site accessible, see the recommendations offered by the American Foundation for the Blind.
What accessibility features does your website already have? Which ones do you plan on adding?