Accessible Website: Why You Need One

This post discusses accessible website best practices. Nearly 20 percent of Americans live with some sort of disability. People over the age of 65 years of age account for about 15 percent of the population.  Two million people are blind, 7.6 million are auditory impaired, and 19.9 million cannot use a mouse. People who are deaf, blind, have a hearing loss, visual impairment, and motor impairment encounter challenges every day of their lives.

There are A.D.A. rules that help with features like ramps and accessible bathrooms. While there are no formal rules regarding A.D.A. compliance for websites, there some specific guidelines to follow. Every new website should aim to be an accessible website. Here is a quick synopsis of ways to make your website more accessible.

What Can You Do Right Now?

User-Way-Accessibility-IconIf you want to make your website as accessible as possible, as quickly as possible, get UserWay. Click here for the UserWay website. UserWay is a free WordPress plugin that instantly helps people with a range of disabilities access your website. UserWay provides a helpful accessibility plugin that works without refactoring your website’s existing code, and will increase compliance with WCAG 2.1, ATAG 2.0, ADA, and Section 508 requirements.

The UserWay tool can enlarge the text on your website, read your site’s pages out-loud, desaturate colors, create more color contrast, and highlight all links. UserWay can change the space between sentences, and between letters, which also help with readability. With these simple steps, your website visitors will be able to navigate your accessible website easier.

Choose Colors Wisely

Be wary of your color choices. Opt for color choices that provide high contrast. Black and white is the best choice, but you can also use different color combinations: brown on white, dark blue on white, dark grey on white. A white background is always a good bet for readability. Don’t pair colors that are close in tone. For example, yellow text on a green background is nearly impossible to read, even if you have good vision.

Font Size for Your Accessible Website

Small and very light fonts are difficult for all viewers. Make sure the color contrast is strong, and that the fonts are at least 14-16 point in most instances. San serif is usually considered easier for low-vision audiences. Here are some fonts that are considered some of the best to use: Arial, Helvetica, Bebas Neue, Calibri, APHont, Lavanderia, OpenDyslexic.

Adequate Letter Spacing

Text with close letter-spacing often presents difficulties for readers who have low vision, especially those with central visual field defects. Where possible, spacing should be a bit wider than usual. This is called kerning. The recommended spacing between lines of text, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, is 1.5, rather than a single space.

Adequate Sentence Spacing

Make sure the sentences are spaced far enough apart to read well. Usually, the automatic spacing works. This is called tracking.

Avoid Using All Caps

Readability is reduced when all caps are used because all words have a uniform rectangular shape. Readers can’t identify words by their shape. Accessible websites typically use upper and lower case, not all caps.

Keyboard Accessible Website

You must be able to fully access your site without a mouse, by using only the arrow or tab buttons.

Use Periods In Abbreviations

Abbreviations are standard, but terrible for accessibility. Screen readers read out every word phonetically. So if you use the term USA. instead of U.S.A., a visitor using a screen reader will only hear “usa.” To make sure this doesn’t happen, use periods: U.S.A.

Create Subtitles And Transcripts For Audio

Make sure that all of your visitors can benefit from the videos on your website by include subtitles in the video. YouTube has tools that allow users to add subtitles. Include a basic text transcript to accompany all videos, whenever possible.

Create an Intuitive Website

Provide multiple ways to navigate through your website. For example, include a sitemap, search bar, related pages links, header menu, footer links.

Furthermore, be sure all forms simple and easy to fill out.

Use Alt Tags For Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. But what if you’re visually impaired or blind?

Do a quick review of your photos by hovering over an image on your site. Do you see little words appear? These are called alt tags. When a web visitor uses a screen reader, the information in these alt tags will be read aloud and really helps towards building an accessible website. Each photo should have an alt tag that includes a brief, but accurate description of the photo.

For example, if the post features a picture of me working at my desk, the alt tag should say “Susannah Devine working at her desk.” This is good for Google searchability, too. Here is another post on increasing traffic to your website that might interest you, click here.

Make Your Links Obvious

If your website includes internal or external links to additional sources of information, your links should be descriptive. Instead of “For a free consultation, click here,” your links should say something like, “To schedule a free consultation on your next website, click here to fill out this form.” Links should be underlined and/or have a color contrast that makes them stand out from the regular text. This helps all people with low vision issues to quickly identify every clickable links.

In Conclusion

Accessibility for anyone is accessibility for everyone. To make all websites fully accessible to all is a goal. So let’s all start to level the playing field by making your website an accessible website.

What to read even more?

More reading:
W3.org, Introducing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Lighthouse International’s Accessibility Guidelines for Web Designers

Teaching Students With Visual Impairments

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