The software we use to access information has become more sophisticated as the web has evolved over the years. With the advent of smartphones and tablets have come some potent tools that make the internet available to anyone.
However, the software can only get us halfway towards the purpose of a fully open, accessible web as one size fits all is not always true with the internet. To ensure disabled users enjoy a complete web surfing experience, website designers must place accessibility at the core of their design.
While there are many standards that web development teams can comply with to build their digital products as accessible as possible, obvious web accessibility issues continue, preventing a large extent of the world’s population from having even access to online information.
According to the World Health Organization, roughly 15pc of the world’s population are with some form of disability. Also, about 3pc of this group encounter significant difficulties in functioning.
Legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act to the Disability Equality Duty, there is plenty of guidance available which speaks about the precise recommendations in the form of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. There is even an enforcing body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which looks after the keystrokes.
Web Accessibility is vital
The UK Office of National Statistics estimated in 2011 about 4.25 million disabled people in the nation have never used the internet, which is more than one-third of all of the disabled adults in the country. As obvious as it sounds, disabled people don’t find it easy to access information over the internet or navigate through e-commerce sites.
Web developers today see the web accessibility standards as a compliance exercise, but what actually should matter is the ‘true usability’. To be more precise, ‘true-usability’ denotes equal access to all transactions, content, and merchandise on a website, notwithstanding one’s disability or challenges.
Two Principal Approaches Have Been Adopted to Try to Change the Situation.
The first is to raise awareness amongst web developers by improving the understanding and skill set of web teams. Guidelines such as WCAG 2.0 and organizations such as OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition are making enormous strides in this area.
So with that in place, there are several ways to assure that you are doing your best to create an accessible website. Here are a few simple, practical tips for implementing when creating a disability-friendly site.
- Using of Alt Tags – The little words which pop-up are called alt-tags when you hover your mouse over an image on a website. For someone who has a visual impairment and uses a screen reader (which is a commonly used software program that reads text on a website out loud), the alt tags are read loudly and are the only way a user identifies what the image is.
Designers should consider the alt tags seriously and use them as a chance to depict the image literally. For instance, if it’s a picture of a person, write his or her name. If it is of an object, use a couple of words to describe the same (such as “pile of bricks” or “bookshelf”).
- Subtitles and Transcripts – If you make web content that regularly includes videos, try to give subtitles — mainly if you’re producing the bulk of your video content. Popular video hosting sites such as YouTube have their own set of tools that enable users to add subtitles to their clips.
Making a transcription of the online video is an incredibly helpful resource for users who are otherwise abled.
- Utilize Color Control – Practising smart colour contrasts, and choices is one of the most useful ways for a website with any form of audience. Designers should shun pairing garish colours in the site and be cautious of using blue, yellow, and green next to one another (this is particularly difficult for colourblind people). Black text over a white background is the usual ideal practice because it’s readable for most audiences.
- Put Periods in Abbreviations – If you’re abridging something in HTML, make sure to put periods in between each letter. For instance, if you’re referencing the Central Intelligence Agency, it is essential to write it as C.I.A. rather than CIA. A screen reader will fail to recognize the abbreviation without periods and in place, will read it out phonetically as a word (C-I-A will be read as “CIA”).
- Get Clickable – For users who are challenged with mobility problems, it can be challenging to click on small items within a short clickable range. It’s like trying to nail a bull’s eye every single time they play a game of darts. Give the clickable item a more extensive range so the user can click on it within the item’s general area.
There are loads of available guides for how to create this in code, such as the one from how-to from Webcredible. Keyboard navigation is the least understood accessibility issue but should be the most common one to mitigate.
- Testing an Accessible website – The best way to test your structure and content of the website is to have a screen reader read the pages out like ChromeVox and Fire Vox. For testing the code, the use of a toolbar, including the Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar for Firefox and the Web Accessibility Toolbar for the Opera browser, can be helpful. Desktop tools are less common, but one of the most original Windows applications is EveryEye, a simple program that shows how the website would appear to someone with vision impairment.
Accessibility is a crucial aspect of good web design, and fortunately, the current web design trends encourage responsive layouts and large fonts which can adapt themselves to all different kinds of output devices (such as laptops, tablet computers, smartphones and even TVs).
If you are looking for expert advice, do not hesitate to contact us for a free evaluation of your website and take the call further.