We all know having a thorough website is important. It’s one of the basics of marketing, right? Easy navigation, a sleek design and well written copy are all crucial aspects to a well-rounded website. But if you think it stops there, you’re forgetting something. Just because a website is easy for some to navigate doesn’t mean that it’s easy for all. In fact, it’s likely that 75%
of Americans won’t be able to navigate your site due to little to no accessibility features provided.
Website accessibility is not new, but it needs to be implemented on a wider scale to make the internet an inclusive space. Sometimes people don’t know where to start when it comes to making their site accessible or may not understand how much of a need there is. So, we’re here to help you dive in!
What is web accessibility?
First, what is web accessibility? Well, it’s more than just fixing a slow-loading site or enlarging text. Making your website accessible means its navigation is inclusive to all, including those with disabilities. It’s the practice of building in tools and being mindful of your site design so that those with disabilities and impairments have zero barriers. That way, they can have the same online experience as any other user.
According to WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), the four main principles for web accessibility are to make your site:
Why is web accessibility important?
You may be thinking nothing is wrong with your website right now, so why do all this work? The reality is website accessibility affects almost 60 million people (about twice the population of Texas)
in the USA and over 1 billion people worldwide. And truthfully, that’s a whole lot of site visitors you’re missing out on. We can all recall a time when we clicked on a site just to be greeted by tiny text and a ton of pop ups. You quickly got frustrated and navigated off the site. Imagine if that were an everyday occurrence because you had a disability.
It's our responsibility to serve consumers with disabilities, too. It’s estimated that 1 in every 5 people
has a physical, visual, auditory, cognitive or neurological disability that can make accessing information online difficult. Making websites accessible is just a small way we can practice inclusivity and ensure all our customers are cared for equally. By making your site accessible, you are helping:
- Visually impaired and blind shoppers
- Colorblind shoppers
- Shoppers who are deaf or suffer hearing impairments
- Elderly shoppers
- Shoppers living in developing countries and regions
- People with physical mobility/motor/dexterity disabilities
Common misconceptions about web accessibility
Even though 60 million adults in the United States live with a disability, there are still some common misconceptions about what is perceived to be a disability and how online experiences can be personalized. Some of the common misconceptions are:
People with disabilities share the same experiences with us and have the same needs when it comes to internet access. They, too, must pay their bills, access valuable information and have a desire to be educated and entertained. But the reality is that the whole experience is made much more challenging due to inaccessibility.
This couldn’t be more untrue! Not all disabilities are alike nor are they visible to the naked eye. Most disabled people live alone, just like us, and have learned to navigate daily life with their disability. While some may have access to an aid or caretaker, it’s not realistic to assume most have that choice or necessarily need or want one.
The proof is in the stats with this one. As we mentioned, not all disabilities look alike, and some are cognitive or not noticeable to the public. In fact, you may be surprised to hear someone you know well has a disability you were unaware of. And not all who use web accessibility features are disabled, such as elderly shoppers who need a larger font size or easier navigation.
While yes, there are added costs to making your website accessible, integrating these features when first building your site can reduce costs. There are also free ways to do this, like picking a legible font, making your logo easy to see or picking brand colors that contrast well. And the truth of the matter is, not making your website accessible is more expensive than just doing it to begin with.
What are legal concerns with accessibility?
In the United States, there are several factors to consider when planning accessibility because different organizations are covered by standards related to specific laws. Section 508 of the American Rehabilitation Act
covers all organizations and has its own technical accessibility standards for designers, developers and content creators. These standards were added to the 1973 law in 1998.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
, on the other hand, is interpreted to require accessibility through its intention that businesses' products and services are available equally. Since this law is being interpreted to cover this topic, it doesn’t specify a technical standard for production disciplines the way that Section 508 does, but the industry uses the WCAG, so it's become the de facto standard of measurement. The WCAG is newer, more modern, and is occasionally updated to reflect innovative technologies and new accessibility challenges.
How to make your website disability accessible
Now that you know all about web accessibility, it’s time to talk about some of the ways you can make your website accessible. In a study of the home pages for the top 1,000,000 web sites, over 51 million
distinct accessibility errors were detected. This is an average of 51.4 errors per home page. Don’t let your website be one of them!
Add Alternative Text
Alternative text (or alt text) is text in place of images and product descriptions. A user’s screen reader will simply read the text aloud so that shoppers can select the right products, sizes and colors based on the alt text’s description of the image. Alt text also alerts shoppers of any details in descriptions, such as product features.
Use Text Links
Empty links happen when a link has no text link, so it is not read in the technical assistance, or it’s indicated as empty. This can happen with display icons, other site buttons and images.
Have Proper Color Contrast
This one is exactly as it sounds. Color contrast is incredibly important when it comes to readability and vision. You can achieve this by ensuring that any forms or design elements have distinct color differences. For example, if your contact form is white, make sure the font color is dark. And if you’re not sure whether your site has proper contrast, you can use this tool
Make Reviews Inclusive
For those who feature reviews on their site, this one is for you! Be sure to include reviews that are inclusive to those with disabilities. This not only proves that you care about these customers, but it also informs them how shoppers like them felt about your product.
Fix Automated Captions
Automated captions are so important but not always the most accurate. If you use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to auto-generate captions, it’s best to check them and tweak any minor inconsistencies and errors. People who are hard of hearing rely heavily on automated captions so ensure that they’re correct.
Allow Users to Enlarge Font Sizes
For those who are visually impaired, adjusting the font size on a site can drastically improve their experience. There are even tools you can add to your site that allow users to choose their preferred font size. This is one of the easiest ways you can make your website more accessible.
Add Keyboard Navigation
For users who have a challenging time using a mouse or cannot use one, keyboard navigation allows them to with ease through tabbing and displaying a keyboard-focus indicator. Blind users rely on assistive technology such as screen readers and can’t see where to click the mouse, so keyboard navigation is necessary.
Avoid Using Placeholder Text in Forms
Placeholder text is used to give an example or indicate where to fill out fields in a form, however, this text is generally small and low contrast, making it hard to see. This can cause users to struggle with filling out a form. We recommend steering away from placeholder text.
Platforms and Services Available
There are several platforms and programs that make adding these features to your site simple and easy. One of these is Accessibe, an AI powered solution that makes your website compliant with WCAG 2.1, ADA, Section 508, AODA, ACA and more. We are thankful to call Accessibe a partner of ours and use their program to make our clients’ websites accessibility inclusive.
Making sites accessible is the bare minimum in 2022, not a back burner issue. All brands should be aspiring to meet accessibility goals and cater to this large audience of people. These are just some of the ways you can start on your accessibility journey and be inclusive to all.
In need of more solutions? Our thunder::tech team has helped countless brands achieve an accessible website. Let’s talk.