As the internet strives to become a universal source of information, it is necessary to consider many factors that make the web accessible to everyone. Accessibility allows your website to be useful for users with disabilities such as visual and hearing impairments, motor skills, physical and cognitive disabilities. Making your website accessible means creating an interface that would meet each user’s needs and be compatible with assistive devices like screen readers or alternative keyboards.
Accessibility can increase the number of visitors on the website to millions of users who need alternative solutions for browsing tools, but it also improves usability for non-disabled people. It can make browsing the website less tiresome and increase the speed of information processing at the same time.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides you with a single shared standard for optimizing your website, and you can easily find a 2.1 AA Checklist on the internet that covers all the latest success criteria. But to ensure that you are doing this in the right way, check out the things to avoid:
Incorrect Alt Text
Alternative text is an essential improvement for accessibility that helps screen readers to describe the image, but it is seldom done correctly. Misusing it may be confusing for disabled users, so make sure to avoid the following mistakes:
- Using the same word for different images or just typing in “image” everywhere;
- Duplicating the title of the page;
- As alt text helps your website’s SEO by giving more information to crawlers, image descriptions may seem like the perfect place for keyword stuffing– and that is bad;
- Using a set of symbols that do not make any sense (like “djfbkdfj903mdnv”);
- Putting a single letter in the description.
If you choose alt attributes as your solution for accessibility, make sure that you do it properly. The best way is to create a description that will sum up the image and include suitable keywords.
Aiming to create a plain text structure of your web content to make it more readable for assistive devices, you may decide to refuse using headings. It will actually decrease your website’s overall usability for everyone and make it even harder to read for people with visual disabilities.
It is vital to use them correctly, though. Make sure you have only one H1 on a page, and the following H2…H6 are used in the right order, so there will not be any confusion in expanding subtopics. And in any case, do not use headings to increase the font size – it will only break the whole structure of the page.
While CAPTCHA is still the best way to distinguish people from robots, dealing with it may be challenging for screen reader users or people with dyslexia if the image with a code is not provided with an alt attribute or is represented as a puzzle. There is no perfect solution that will be suitable for everyone here up to this day. So consider removing it from the “leave a comment” and other unnecessary sections and minimizing its usage to payments only.
Tables are created for conveying the information in a more compact and clear way, but it may be confusing for the screen reader as it reads the coordinates of each cell. So it will not be the best solution to use them for nearly everything, especially nesting one or more tables in another.
Tables need to be used only for tabular data, so avoid using them for lists, layouts, or just for grouping information. Remember that what may be handy for you can become problematic for an assistive device.
Treating Users Differently
Excluding some functions for disabled users’ accessibility may be discriminative, as you are making a decision for them about what they might or might not need. For example, your website may not have a description for a zoom function, implying that people with visual impairments will not need such a thing, and that might be mistaken.
Ensure your website provides everyone with all the information and functionality that you offer without any exceptions or giving up on things that can be challenging to adjust for accessibility.
Accessibility has ceased to be an unobtrusive service – now it is an integral part of the web development process. You need to consider many details and understand other people’s points of view in order to make your website accessible to everyone. Automated validation is frequently not enough, so you should check your website manually to exclude any mistakes.
Despite various screen readers and other assistive devices working in different ways, WCAG provides you with a standard that will help you aim for your website’s universal accessibility. Focus on implementing as many alternatives as possible to increase the site’s usability so that anyone will benefit from those changes.