Did you know that as much as 15% of your website visitors may have one disability or another that’s preventing them from using your website properly?
World Bank reports that “one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.”
Online business owners and digital marketers are known for their stellar attention towards developing effective digital tools that cater to all kinds of demographics — age group, marital status, gender, educational level, and so on. Unfortunately, not much is said or done about this very significant 15% of people.
In recent times, this has led to several web accessibility related lawsuits and scandals in places like the United States and Europe.
For the record, web accessibility is the concept of making a website usable to people with disabilities. It focuses on designing and developing your website and its content so that all of your potential users, including people with disabilities, are able to easily access your information and have a decent user experience.
Why Make Your Website Accessible?
The implementation of web accessibility is treated in many parts of the world, not just as a step towards showing care to disabled users, but as the right legal step to take.
In fact, in different regions of the world, web accessibility is regulated by stipulated government bodies or organizations with legal backing. For instance, in the United States, web accessibility is regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Another recognized body is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is the international organization for web standards. The W3C has the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible.
But creating an accessible website is not just about law compliance. It is a way to essentially optimize your website and its content to attract and keep customers.
In its WCAG 2.1, the World Wide Web Consortium states that, “accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile web design, site exit disclaimer, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, design for older users, and search engine optimization (SEO).”
This means that disability-friendly websites stand a greater chance of having increased engagement, better user interaction, higher conversion rate, better search results, reduced maintenance costs, improved user experience, amongst other benefits. And of course, it saves you lawsuit time and money.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to tell that providing accessible websites is a win-win for both businesses and consumers.
How to Make Your Website Accessible
Ready to roll up your sleeves and get the job done? Here are some of the best, easy-to-implement ways to make your website accessible:
- Test and Remediate Using Web Accessibility Tools
As a website owner, you may have gone through the standards and guidelines provided by the appropriate organizations and the law, like the WCAG 2.1 or ADA recommendations.
But how can you tell whether your website is completely WCAG 2.1 or ADA compliant? It turns out the first step to take towards making your website accessible is to use a web accessibility checker like aCe or WAVE to test the level of compliance your site currently rocks.
These tools help you monitor and maintain standards provided by the law. Upon running your website through a web accessibility checker, if you find issues, the tools can provide some valuable recommendations on the best ways to solve them.
After you’ve established the weak accessibility points, you can either go for manual coding according to the WCAG standards and hire a developer or a web accessibility consultant, or you can use a web accessibility platform like accessiBe or Level Access.
For instance, a tool like accessiBe will help you become accessible quickly. Using artificial intelligence, this tool scans and remediates your website’s code in real-time, to achieve accessibility compliance through implementing the ADA and WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
- Apply Multisensory/Multi-interactivity Approach (beyond text)
Content provides the basic point of interaction between your website and its users. Thus, the bigger part of your accessibility effort will be in making your content accessible.
One thing you can do to make your website content accessible is to present it (your site content) through multiple sensory channels. In other words, you have to make your information available, not only as text for people who are able to read, but also for those who prefer to access the content through sound and sight. This is in line with WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
This allows your site visitors to go beyond the traditional navigation approach to keyboard-based control and voice-based navigation. Which means, visitors with disabilities can now easily access the same information as nondisabled users.
- Create Text-based Descriptions and Captions for Multimedia
Just as in the case discussed above, there are users who may not be able to access your visual, audio or video content but would prefer readable information.
Thus it’s best practice to provide text explanations, transcripts, or in-sync captioning for your visual, audio, and video assets.
As an illustration: some disabled users use screen reader software to access your site, and such software only relays information through auditory or Braille output, making it unable to read visual-based content like infographic on your site.
Adding image alt text and title tags that provide a well-understood description of the image content can go a long way in making your website accessible.
- Make Your Site Device-Friendly
The last two points are about making your content accessible. But don’t stop there. Content accessibility is essential, but if it cannot be accessed on mobile devices or with assistive technologies, it is of no use.
As a recommendation, make your website more usable and accessible to the technologies and devices used by disabled people; your site functionality and navigation should be optimized to work with technologies such as voice-control systems and facial mouse. This goes from choosing the right theme to coding your pages properly, and everything in between.
Best Practices for Making Your Content and Website Accessible
Finally, apply these best practices to your content to make it more accessible:
- Provide informative or even descriptive page titles.
- Apart from providing alt text and title tags, complex images should have more extensive descriptions near them.
- Your hyperlink text should be clear and concise.
- You should use headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.) effectively to organize the structure of your content.
- Your web forms and call-to-actions should be clean and precise
- Numbered lists and bullet points can also help make your content more consumable.
- Your website should have a skip navigation feature.
- Label tables where possible.
- Use color with care, without relying on it as a navigational tool or as the sole way to differentiate items.
As much as you love to optimize the elements within your content and website for search engines and for able users, it is advisable to optimize the same for the disabled too.
By making your website accessible, you’re meeting compliance with WCAG 2.1, ADA, and even other legislations such as Section 508, AODA, ACA, etc.
But much more than that, you’re making your website easily accessible to about 15% of your site visitors who may have one disability or the other.
Additionally, in the process of making your website accessible, you automatically improve other aspects of your site such as engagement, interaction, user experience, and conversion rate.