If you’ve tried to make, commission or even research a website in the last couple of years you’ve probably heard at least a couple of people mention accessibility.
But do you know what it means?
Accessibility is the process of measuring how easily your site is used by folks who have a disability which potentially changes how they interact with a computer or website, this could be anything ranging from a visual impairment, problems with their fine motor skills or even having trouble hearing. There are any number of things which can affect how people use your site, with as many as 1 in 5 people just in the UK having some form of disability it’s our responsibility as developers and site owners to make sure that what we put forward for public use is usable by everybody equally.
Why should you care about accessibility?
Short answer is ethics, the internet should be for everyone regardless of any external factors, this combined with the fact that the vast majority of changes needed to make a site accessible are just good coding practices to keep in mind anyway so there’s no reason not to do them. Long answer is as previously stated as many as 1 in 5 people are disabled in some way, that’s potentially 1 in 5 of the users on your site who aren’t having a good experience and will just find somewhere better to go if your site can’t keep up.
How can I make my website accessible?
There are so many ways! More than I can fit in just one short blog, but I will list some common ones and some useful tools and resources to help you on your way.
One of the biggest, most obvious and most easily helped groups of people who are affected by inaccessible websites are visually impaired folks, this can be anybody with a visual impairment ranging from just needing reading glasses to being reliant on software which reads out the content on a page for you, a great tool for working on fixes for visually impaired people is the Wave plugin (https://wave.webaim.org/extension/) which is available on most browsers and is a fantastic tool for finding poor coding practices, images without alt tags, colour contrast checks and helping with page structure, while Wave is primarily aimed towards helping people with visual impairments, many of the changes it can prompt you to make are helpful for people who are challenged in other ways too, for example promoting the use buttons above a certain size will help both visually impaired people and people who struggle with fine motor skills.
In addition to Wave, some browsers such as Chrome and Firefox are working on their own tools for testing site speed, health and accessibility to help bring this topic more into mainstream attention; however these automated tools aren’t a replacement for manual checking, only something to be used in conjunction with other tools to make your site the most accessible experience possible, for an example of why you shouldn’t use them exclusively take a look at this fantastic experiment (https://www.matuzo.at/blog/building-the-most-inaccessible-site-possible-with-a-perfect-lighthouse-score/) by Manuel Matuzović who makes a website which scores 100% on an automated test but in reality is totally unusable for almost everybody.
Some wonderful resources for helping you on your path to making a site accessible can be provided by The A11y Project (https://a11yproject.com/) which is a movement created to promote good accessibility standards through the web, they do this by creating educational content for people to help explain how and why certain changes should be made as well as collating and testing resources which can be used to help make site’s accessible; if you’re a developer or even just someone looking to make your site more accessible I would very much recommend having a look through their site because you’ll almost always learn something new.
Quick tips for an accessible site
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some quick changes you can make to keep your site as easy to use for everybody as possible.
Alt tags: alt tags are a short descriptive line of text which screen readers will pick up to help give visually impaired people some context for the images and other media content on your website, these should be attached to every image, video or any other sort of visual media which.
Properly structured forms: properly structuring forms on your site could be the difference between somebody getting in touch with your company or not, by using labels correctly and in a user friendly way you can ensure that everybody can use your forms easily, for a guide on how to do this check out this link (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/HTML/Forms/How_to_structure_an_HTML_form)
Check contrast: The contrast between the text colour and the background colour is key to ensuring that your site is easy to read for everybody, there are a range of fantastic tools to check this and I recommend you use them often. Personally I use this when developing sites and designs (http://accessible-colors.com/)
Don’t be afraid to mess up: making a site accessible isn’t a quick or even always an easy task, you won’t always get it perfect every time and it’s okay if some things slip through the cracks when you make fixes; what’s important is that you are making an effort to improve things, that you listen to disabled folks if they give feedback and that you try to keep on top of what needs to be done to make the internet a more accepting and accessible place for everybody.
That’s fantastic, feel free to get in touch with either a comment or through the contact form at the bottom of this page, we’ll be happy to talk to you.