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What is Website Accessibility?

Website Accessibility refers to making sure that websites are designed in such a way that enables people with disabilities to successfully use them. 

According to the Web Accessibility Initiative, this means ensuring people can not only understand and interact with websites, but also contribute to the Web as a whole, regardless of any auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical or visual impairments.

The most referenced set of accessibility standards, used by the likes of The Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BOIA), are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, known as POUR.

Let’s take a quick look at these…

P – Perceivable

This means that information and any actual user interface/interactive elements should be perceivable despite a disabled user visiting the site. In the words of the BOIA, “Information cannot be invisible to their senses.”

For example, ensuring that all images have alt-text so visually impaired visitors can still interact with the webpage. 

O – Operable

This one is pretty self-explanatory – the website and its functions must actually work, and functionality cannot require the user to interact with the site in a manner prevented by their disability.

For example, designing a clear and easily usable navigation and site structure.

U – Understandable

The information presented on a website, and the navigation/user interface as a whole, must be able to be understood by the user. This is a basic component of building a successful user experience, and should be an absolute priority. 

For example, ensuring that on-page text is readable and clear.

R – Robust. 

How can a website be described as robust? This refers to ensuring that a website is built to be compatible with assistive technologies, and that investment is made in the website on an ongoing basis to maintain compatibility with emerging assistive technologies.

Why Does Website Accessibility Matter?

Whilst web accessibility might seem like a niche issue, this could not be further from the truth. Research suggests that over 70% of users with access needs will leave a website if they find it difficult to use, and 92% of us are more likely to support a business that is accessible.

There are three main reasons why web accessibility matters…

1 – The Social Impact of Web Accessibility

Over 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. That’s 1 in 6 of us! 

Think of how many times you use the internet or a web-based service in your daily life. The average person uses the internet for a whopping 415 minutes (over 6 hours) a day!

Whether it’s for shopping, booking appointments, consuming entertainment, speaking to family and friends, or keeping up with the news, we’re reliant on frictionless access to the internet.

The ability to access the web and successfully interact with services allows those living with a disability to participate in a society that is becoming increasingly digital.

By ensuring your website is as accessible as possible, you are removing barriers and enabling disabled visitors to go about their day without unnecessary resistance.

2 – Legally Protecting Your Business For Accessibility

To further emphasise the importance of access to the internet, did you know that many countries have protected web accessibility under the law, such as the EU’s ‘European Accessiblity Act’ and the US’ ADA laws

Brands ignoring accessibility run the risk of being accused of discriminating against disabled individuals, and can find themselves in legal trouble. Even Beyonce has fallen short of this, and was sued for breaking ADA laws in 2019.

3 – Financial Incentives for Accessibility

Finally, there’s the financial incentive for accessibility. In the UK alone, online retailers lose over £11 Billion due to poor accessibility on their websites. 

By ensuring your website is accessible, you are allowing your site to be functional to millions of potential customers who otherwise would not be able to shop with you.

So, not only is there a moral imperative to make your website accessible, you are giving your business an opportunity to engage with a huge portion of the market.

That’s a win-win!

So, How Do I Check My Site’s Accessibility?

Thankfully, it’s easy to check how accessible your website is.

There are a couple of options here, but we think the easiest way to get insight into your website is to use a tool like WAVE.

This is a free evaluation tool that produces an actionable report for your webpage. You can use their website, or download the chrome extension to make it even easier to assess accessibility.

For more information on WAVE, watch this video for a real-world tutorial on how you can use it to review your website:

How Can I Easily Improve Website Accessibility?

Now we’ve established just how important web accessibility is, it’s a good job that plenty of accessibility improvements are incredibly easy to implement.

Covering site structure, development, and design – here are some easy fixes you can make to ensure your website works for those with disabilities…

1 – Alt Tags for Images

One of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on your site accessibility is to ensure you are inputting alt-tags to your images.

Alt-tags are sometimes also called alt-descriptions, and they perform a very important role in helping visually impaired visitors successfully navigate your site. 

Without alt-tags in place, a screen reader may read out an ugly and confusing file name or, worse still, skip the image entirely. This risks hiding incredibly important information from site users.

So, when you’re adding images to your site remember to add alt-text – here is a step-by-step guide to help you on your way.

2 – Font Selection & Sizes

Font size is of great importance to those visiting your site with visual impairments. 

Fonts that are too small risk being illegible to those with disabilities, so make sure your default font size is of reasonable scale.

In addition, make sure you select a font that is clearly legible and avoid stylistically complicated fonts. Whilst they may look like cool designs, they often come at the expense of clarity.

3 – Colour Contrast

Poor colour contrasts are repeat offenders in the world of accessibility.

If your site features/sections/content have poorly considered colour palettes and weak contrasts, you risk providing a terrible experience for disabled visitors.

There are plenty of free colour contrast checkers available, like this one from WebAIM or this one which is also a useful plugin. Sites with good contrast scores help visually impaired visitors navigate through your content and distinguish between various site elements.

4 – Make Videos Accessible

Sites that are heavily reliant on video-based media are often very problematic for disabled visitors to engage with.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make videos accessible. You can use sites like Rev to easily create accurate transcripts and captions.

Putting in the effort to provide captions can boost marketing efforts across the board, with nearly 70% of marketers finding that captioned videos outperformed their uncaptioned counterparts. 

It’s also worth asking if you need videos at all. Can text be used just as effectively? Understanding that a video-heavy site may leave 1/6th of your potential audience in the dark could mean reconsidering how much site media you want to rely on instead of text.

5 – Maintain Title Hierarchy 

When writing your blog and page content, make sure you’re sticking to the heading hierarchy using <h> tags from <h1> (biggest) to <h6> (smallest).

This helps users visit your site with the assistance of screen readers, and is actually the best practice for SEO too!

So, you should use <h1> for your main blog or page title, <h2> for any headings that follow on from this on the same page, <h3> for subheadings, and follow suit up to <h6> for mini headlines!

Can Wilkes Wood Help Make My Site Accessible?

Yes, we can!

We can work with you to turn your site into a more accessible, inclusive version. After running an evaluative audit, we can then help you work through visual and technical changes to improve the accessibility of your online presence.

For more information on this, and to book a free discovery call, please get in touch today!

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