If you’ve ever struggled to navigate a website due to poor usability, you can imagine how much more difficult this would be for someone with a disability. Close to 1 billion people across the globe have some type of disability. If you fail to design your website with these users in mind, your message will likely never reach a great portion of your audience.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who creates standards and guidelines for the web, created the WCAG 2.0 Accessibility standards. These standards are set to give access to the web for all individuals.
Since the inception of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a lot of progress has been made to ensure people with disabilities are provided equal protection for employment, access to programs and services, and improved access to public accommodations and commercial facilities. However, many people are unaware of the barriers that make it difficult, or impossible, for people with disabilities to use the internet.
Fortunately, it’s easy to create a website that’s accessible to more people — just by following a few simple accessibility guidelines. With these guidelines in place, you’ll be able to target a larger number of prospects, while showing that your brand believes in inclusivity and strives to serve the greater population.
An accessible website is also beneficial for all users, whether or not they may live with a disability. Benefits include improved usability on devices such as smart watches, faster processes for slow internet connections, and a better experience in less than-optimal-environments where lighting may be dim or audio is not accessible.
The following are just a few ways you can begin to implment WCAG 2.0 Accessibility standards on your website to allow for greater accessibility across a range of users.
1. Consider Your Audience
It would difficult to design a website for every possible disability — physical, sensory, or cognitive. It’s also unnecessary most of the time. By considering who makes up your target audience, you can determine what kind of accessibility is most pressing for your website.
For instance, if many of your customers are seniors, you should focus on disabilities that are may be more prevelant in elderly individuals, such as visual impairment and deafness. In contrast, if you are targeting extreme sports fanatics, a more likely issue is a temporary disability such as a broken arm. If the majority of your audience are men, you may need to consider color blindness — this impacts close to 1 in 12 men. You can reduce eye strain simply by using contrasting colors in your design.
2. Add Alt Tags
One of the simplest actions you can take to improve accessibility is to use alt tags. These are what appear if you hover your cursor over an image. They are ideal for users with visual impairments who are navigating the Internet with a screen reader (a tool that reads text aloud). Alt tags are the only way that blind users can know what an image is of.
There is no need to go into great depth with your alt tags. A short phrase describing the picture or stating the names of people depicted is sufficient.
3. Use Periods in Abbreviations
Another limitation of a screen reader is that they often mispronounces abbreviations, reading them as words instead of spelling out the letters. Simply adding periods between letters will ensure that screen readers are reading abbreviations correctly.
4. Subtitle Your Videos
It is particularly important to include subtitles if you are creating a large amount of video content. These will primarily serve deaf users, but they will also be helpful to people whose first language is not English.
Furthermore, subtitles can be useful to your audience as a whole — users can turn on subtitles when they are unsure of what was said at a certain part of the video or when when they want to know how to spell an industry term. Subtitles are also beneficial for you, as you can use the subsequent transcripts for marketing purposes.
5. Make Your Site Accessible By Keyboard
Some users with limited mobility may struggle to use a mouse or trackpad. These users navigate the Internet using just a keyboard. You can provide them with better access to your website by allowing them to press the tab and arrow keys to move logically through content.
Break up any pages with long content using anchor links. This will enable users to jump to the part of the page they want to access without needing to move through all the content. Add a “skip to main content” at the top of every page.
Whether you are building a new website or redesigning a current one, make accessibility a factor from the start. This will improve the users experience on your website and continue to bring in qualified traffic to help build your business or brand.
Not sure if your website is WCAG 2.0 Accessible? Get a free website audit to find out today.