Regardless of hardware, software, language, location, or physical ability, websites should be accessible to everyone. When web design effectively achieves this goal, all people – including those with any number of hearing, movement, sight, or cognitive abilities – are able to use the web page in question. It is for this reason that accessibility is an essential concern for developers and businesses who which to create high quality websites and tools. Read on to learn why accessibility is important and how you can create an accessible website for your business.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility means that persons with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web. As such, when we define accessibility in web design the following concerns are addressed: auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, visual.
Why is Accessibility Important?
While some may view accessibility in UX (user experience) as a design “bonus,” ADA compliance in UX design is actually a pretty important component of building a website.
In many ways, the option to virtually interact can level the playing field for a person with a disability. This is because virtual interaction removes barriers to communication and engagement usually encountered in the physical world. In this sense, creating accessible websites supports inclusion.
It’s simply good form to accommodate all users when and if possible. Additionally, section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act requires that information and communication technology ensure the accessibility and useability by individuals with disabilities. So, not only is making your website accessible the right thing to do and a beneficial business practice, but in many cases it is also a legal requirement.
Additional Benefits of Accessibility
There are also some secondary benefits to designing for people with digital accessibility needs. For instance, accessibility has significant overlap with best practices such as mobile first design, multi-modal interaction, and search engine optimization. In fact, studies have shown that accessible sites fare better in organic search results than non-accessible sites.
But the benefits of accessibility don’t stop with SEO. Large text options are great for users with smaller screens. And captions are beneficial for those who can’t turn the volume up on their smart phones. The ancillary benefits really add up and are what bring users back again and again, disability or not.
What are Website Accessibility Standards?
There are several components to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are essentially accessibility standards for web design. The most recent iteration of these accessible website requirements was developed in 2018. Each suggestion falls into one of four categories:
- Perceivable. Information and user interface components must be presented in a way (or ways) all users can perceive.
- Operable. User interface and navigation components should be controllable by all users.
- Understandable. Operation of and Information contained within the website must be understandable to all who may access it.
- Robust. Content must be developed using industry standards that work across different browsers, both now and in the future.
By adhering to these guidelines companies will ensure that they are not only meeting the accessibility needs of their users, but that they are building an ADA compliant website.
Examples of Accessibility
Understanding the broad strokes of accessibility is great. But exactly what does web accessibility mean, and how does one build a website based on these principles? Here are just a few examples of accessibility in user interface design.
Alternative text for images (or alt text) can be included in an image’s code. Alternative text describes the image for those who are unable to see it – whether they are blind, vision impaired, or simply choose not to load images on their device in an effort to conserve bandwidth. Additionally, describing an image provides information to search engines as they attempt to determine how relevant a page is to a user’s query.
An accessible website doesn’t rely on a mouse. All functionality is available using keyboard commands, which is helpful to any person with limited fine motor control. In this case, website visitors are able to input keyboard commands using assistive tools or assistive technology such as speech recognition.
Just like image descriptions accommodate users who cannot see, audio transcripts, or captions, can assist users who are unable to hear. This makes the information contained in a video or audio recording accessible to any person who is deaf, hard of hearing, or unable to use an audio output on their device.
The contrast, or lack thereof, between foreground color and background color can have a major impact on the legibility of a website. For the sake of accessibility and a positive user experience all around, it’s important to ensure there is sufficient contrast between these two design elements.
A trusted translating software interprets and localizes your website, thus making your content accessible by and engaging to anyone, regardless of the language they speak or the region of the world in which they live.
What may feel intuitive to some has the potential to be overwhelming and challenging to others. Website navigation, for instance, can be frustrating to a person with cognitive or neurological challenges, or perhaps a person who is very new to using the internet. Maintaining consistency goes a long way here. As does using breadcrumbs to provide an additional means for users to understand where they are within a website at any given time.
Hungry Media Builds Accessible Sites
With years of experience building mobile friendly sites and applications, Hungry Media understands why accessibility is important and how to maintain user accessibility requirements while building a beautiful, functional website. Our unique approach will first work to uncover the specific needs of your business and your project, and then our team of designers and developers will collaborate with you to build the accessible website of your dreams. Contact us today for more information. We can’t wait to meet you!
contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer