In this era of digitalisation, having a website accessible to every user, no matter their abilities has become more than just good business practice; it’s now a legal requirement. As the internet continues growing in popularity and people increasingly rely on it for daily activities, ensuring your website is available to everyone becomes essential—not only for users but also for your company. Moreover, following good website accessibility practices also improves website SEO.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with the most up-to-date, effective best practices and strategies to make your website accessible in 2023. Whether a developer, designer or website owner, this tutorial gives you everything required to ensure everyone can use your site comfortably. With these approaches and tools at hand, anyone can create an inclusive user experience.
What Does Website Accessibility Mean?
Website accessibility is the practice of making websites and web applications accessible to all people, including those with disabilities or impairments. By creating a website or application that can be accessed and used by people with various levels of ability, companies can ensure that everyone has access to their content. This not only helps them reach a wider audience but also allows them to comply with legal requirements for website accessibility.
Website accessibility involves several technical factors, which we will cover in detail throughout this article. Besides technical considerations, websites must also have content that everyone can easily understand, regardless of their ability level. This includes using plain language and providing additional resources such as transcripts for audio and video content. To see how we can help you, take a look at our content writing services.
Creating accessible websites takes dedication and planning to ensure it works for everyone regardless of their device, browser or other technology settings. However, doing so not only helps companies meet legal requirements but also opens up opportunities for businesses to reach new customers who may otherwise have been unable to access the content.
The Importance of Prioritising Website Accessibility
Having an accessible website is essential for businesses today. It is crucial to prioritise accessibility issues on websites so that all users, regardless of their abilities, can access and interact with the content.
Accessible websites are designed with a more holistic user experience in mind. This means they are easier to navigate and understand for everyone. By prioritising accessibility issues, businesses can reach a broader audience and ensure their website complies with legal requirements.
When creating a website, it is essential to identify any potential accessibility issues and prioritise them based on importance. Key pages, such as the homepage, should be given priority when testing for website accessibility.
How to Check Your Site’s Web Accessibility
Useful Tools for Improving Website Accessibility
Accessibility checkers are digital tools that quickly scan websites for on-page and technical accessibility issues. They help authors make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities and ensure compliance with web accessibility legislation, WCAG, and ADA.
One of the most popular tools for evaluating website accessibility is the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE) from W3C. This free web-based audit tool scans your website and presents any errors it finds in an easy-to-understand format. It can also identify potential issues needing to comply with WCAG standards.
Another helpful tool is AChecker, which provides detailed feedback on how to make your website more accessible. It checks for common accessibility errors, such as missing alternative text for images and incorrect heading levels. It also includes various other features, such as colour contrast analysis and automated testing.
These are just some of the many tools available to help you make sure your website meets the necessary accessibility standards, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Install a Browser Extension for Accessibility
Installing a browser extension is another tool to utilise when working on website accessibility.
Browser extensions are small programs that add additional features and functionality to your web browser. Many accessibility-focused extensions are available for popular browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. These extensions can help you identify potential accessibility issues in your web content, such as missing alternative text or incorrect heading structure. They can also provide helpful tools like text-to-speech readers and high-contrast modes that make it easier for people with disabilities to access your content.
Installing a browser extension is easy – simply search for the desired extension in the Chrome Web Store or other app stores, click “Add to Chrome” or “Install”, then follow any on-screen instructions. After installation, you may need to configure settings or enable certain features before using the extension.
Manually Check for Common Accessibility Issues
Proactively testing for accessibility breaches is critical to ensure your website or program is available. This can be achieved by regularly evaluating your platform’s design, content, and code.
The 10 most common website accessibility issues include:
- Inappropriate navigation links
- Data tables not adequately marked up for screen readers
- Image alt text errors
- Failure to use proper labels
- Low contrast on text
- Missing alt text on images
- Missing link text
- Inaccessible form controls
- Lack of keyboard access
- Poor colour contrast.
To manually check for these issues, you should first review the code of your website or application. This includes looking at HTML tags and attributes to ensure they are correctly structured and labelled. You should also look for any potential coding errors that may prevent users with disabilities from accessing the content.
Next, you should review the design of your website or application. This includes ensuring sufficient colour contrast between elements so that people with visual impairments can easily distinguish them. You should also ensure that all interactive elements, such as buttons and links, are clearly labelled so that users with disabilities can understand their purpose.
Finally, you should review the content of your website or application to make sure it is written in plain language and easy to understand. You should also check for any images or videos needing additional descriptions so that people with visual impairments can understand what they see.
Hire a Website Accessibility Expert to Audit Your Site
If you want to ensure your website is accessible to all users, then hiring a website accessibility expert is the best way to go. A website accessibility specialist can help you audit your site and identify any potential issues preventing people with disabilities from accessing your content. They can also provide guidance on how to fix any problems they find and create an inclusive experience for everyone who visits your website.
When it comes to finding the right website accessibility expert, there are several things you should consider. First, look for someone who has experience in this field and is certified as a website Accessibility Specialist (IAAP). This certification shows that they have the knowledge and expertise to properly audit your website and ensure it meets all of the necessary standards.
You should also consider looking for someone who has worked with similar websites in the past and understands the nuances of making sure a website is accessible.
Once you’ve found an expert that meets these criteria, they will begin by auditing your site. This process involves analysing existing applications and web content, testing user interfaces, and assessing how easy it is for people with disabilities to access your content. After completing their audit, they will provide you with a report detailing any potential issues that need to be addressed and recommendations on improving accessibility on your site.
How to Improve Website Accessibility: Key Steps
Prioritise Accessibility from the Start of Your Design Process
When designing and developing a website, it is important to prioritise accessibility from the start.
One way to prioritise accessibility is using HTML headings to structure your web page content correctly. Headings organise content into sections and subsections, making it easier for users to find what they want. Assigning alt tags for images will help those who cannot see them understand what they represent. Moreover, providing descriptive titles for links will help users better understand where they are being directed when clicking on them.
Another way to prioritise accessibility is by simplifying forms on your website. Forms can be difficult for some users, so ensuring they are as straightforward as possible is critical. This includes ensuring that all required fields are clearly marked and providing helpful error messages if something goes wrong. Breaking up content into smaller sections can make it easier to read and understand.
Finally, consider whether your website would work if all images were disabled or removed. If you need help, you should look at ways of ensuring that all functionality still works without relying on images alone. For example, this could include adding alternative text descriptions or providing audio versions of content where appropriate.
Ensure Your Content Management System Supports Accessibility
Creating an accessible website requires more than ensuring the content is accessible. It also requires that the content management system (CMS) used to create and manage the website is designed with accessibility in mind.
When selecting a CMS, look for one with built-in features supporting accessibility. This includes features like text resizing, keyboard navigation, and screen reader compatibility. Ensure the CMS allows you to easily add alternative text descriptions to images and videos so assistive technologies can correctly interpret them.
Once you have selected a CMS, it’s vital to ensure it meets all of your accessibility needs. This means testing the CMS with assistive technologies such as screen readers and keyboard navigation tools to ensure everything works as expected. If any issues are found, address them before launching your website.
Finally, don’t forget about training your team on how to use the CMS in an accessible way. Ensure everyone using the CMS is aware of best practices for creating accessible content and knows how to use the built-in features that support accessibility.
Write Clear and Concise Content for Accessibility and Usability
Writing clear and concise content is essential in ensuring your website is accessible to all users. Clear and concise content makes it easier for everyone to understand the information on your website, regardless of their ability or disability. It also makes things easier when it comes to the content marketing stage.
When writing content, use simple language that everyone can easily understand. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may confuse some readers. Try to keep sentences short and avoid long paragraphs, as they can be challenging to read.
It’s also important to use headings correctly when writing content for accessibility and usability. Headings help break up the text into smaller sections, making it easier for people with disabilities to scan the page quickly. Headings should follow a logical hierarchy, with each heading being more specific than the one before it. This helps screen readers understand the page’s structure better to navigate it more easily.
Use Descriptive Link Names for Improved Accessibility
Descriptive link names should be short and concise but still provide enough information about the content that the user will find when they click on the link. For example, instead of using a generic “click here” or “read more,” use something like “Learn more about web accessibility guidelines.” This will give users a better understanding of what they’ll find when clicking the link.
It’s also essential to ensure all links are labelled and organised logically. This includes ensuring that all headings and subheadings are clearly labelled so that users can easily navigate your website. Avoid using too many links in one section, as this can make it difficult for users to find what they’re looking for.
Finally, test your website regularly to ensure all links are working correctly and providing accurate information. This will help ensure that your website is accessible to everyone. For more information, check out our link-building services or take a look at our link building 101 guide.
Include Proper Alt Text for Images
Including appropriate alt text for images is important in making your website more accessible. Alt text, or alternative text, describes the image that screen readers and other assistive technologies can read. This helps people with visual impairments understand what the image is about.
When adding alt text to an image, it’s important to keep it short and descriptive. It should accurately describe the image’s content but not include any extra information that isn’t relevant. For example, if you have an image of a dog on your website, your alt text could simply say “dog”.
It’s also important to avoid using phrases like “image of” or “picture of” in your alt text, as this can be redundant and take up valuable space. Make sure to use unique alt texts for each image on your website to make it easy to distinguish.
Finally, it’s important to remember that not all images need alt texts. If an image doesn’t convey meaningful information (such as a decorative border), you don’t need to add an alt tag.
Use Alternative Formats for Non-Textual Content
Non-textual content includes images, charts, graphs, audio/video content, advertisements, buttons, icons, logos and more. Without providing a text alternative for these elements, people with visual or auditory disabilities may be unable to access the information they need.
To ensure everyone can access your website’s content, providing a text alternative for all non-textual elements is important. This text alternative should serve the same purpose as the non-textual element and be easy to understand. For example, if you are using an image of a graph on your website, you should also include a description of what the graph is showing.
When creating text alternatives for non-textual elements, it is important to consider how assistive technology interprets the code. The preprogrammed rules used by assistive technology must be considered when writing text alternatives so that users can understandably access information.
Optimise Videos for Improved Accessibility
Videos are a great way to engage users and provide valuable information. However, if videos are not optimised for accessibility, they can be difficult or even impossible for some users to access. To ensure that all users have equal access to your video content, there are several steps you can take.
First, ensure the video’s audio is clear and easy to understand. If possible, provide captions or subtitles so that those who are hard of hearing can still follow along with the video. Adding descriptive text tags to any images in the video helps ensure that screen readers can correctly interpret them.
If embedding a video into your website, HTML5 is prefferable to Flash, as this will allow more users to access the content. Consider providing an audio-only version of the video and a transcript so that those who cannot view the video can still get the same information from it.
Remember that many people with disabilities might need extra time or assistance in order to view the videos on your website. Make sure to provide these individuals with the tools and assistance they require so they can fully enjoy your writing.
Make Audio Content Accessible to All Users
In order to increase website accessibility, audio material must be made available to all users. Audio content can be an excellent tool for interacting with visitors, but it must be usable by everyone, regardless of their impairments.
Here are some tips for making audio content more accessible:
- Provide transcripts of audio content so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can access the information.
- Make sure that audio files have descriptive titles and captions so that people who use screen readers can understand the content.
- Include closed captions for videos with audio content so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can follow along.
- Use a text-to-speech tool to provide an alternative way for people to access the information if they cannot listen to the audio file directly.
- Test your audio files on different devices and browsers to ensure they work for all users.
Use Color Mindfully for Enhanced Accessibility
Using colour mindfully is an important step in improving website accessibility. Colours can be used to convey meaning and provide visual cues, but they should be used with caution. It’s important to consider how colours are used on the website and whether they are accessible to all users.
One of the most important considerations when using colour is contrast. The contrast between text and background colours should be high enough that all users can read the text easily. The WCAG 2.1 guidelines recommend a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text (18 point or larger). It’s also important to make sure that any information conveyed through colour is also available without colour, such as by using symbols or patterns instead of just colour alone.
When choosing colours for your website, it’s also important to consider how people with different types of colour vision may perceive them. For example, some people may be unable to distinguish between certain shades of red and green, so it’s best to avoid using those colours together close to your website. You should avoid relying on colour alone to convey meaning; instead, use other methods like symbols or labels so that everyone can understand the meaning behind the colours you use on your site.
Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
Ensuring your website works well on various devices and screen sizes can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ensure your site is optimised for mobile users.
First, make sure your content is responsive. This means that it will automatically adjust to fit the size of any device or screen size. You can also use media queries to create different layouts for different devices and screen sizes. It would be best to use large font sizes and buttons so they are easy to read and click on smaller screens.
Second, consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology to speed up loading times on mobile devices. AMP pages are designed specifically for mobile users and load faster than regular web pages. This helps improve user experience and makes it easier for people with disabilities to access your content quickly and easily.
Finally, test your website on multiple devices before launching it publicly. This will help you identify any potential issues with how the site looks or functions on different devices so you can fix them before going live.
Build Accessible Forms with Consideration to All Users
Creating accessible forms is a key step in improving website accessibility. Accessible forms are easy to understand, complete, and submit for all users, including those with disabilities.
Here are some best practices for creating accessible forms:
- Label your form inputs – Labels should be clear and descriptive so that users can easily identify the requested information.
- Highlight input elements on focus – When a user clicks or tabs into an input field, it should be highlighted to indicate which field the user is currently interacting with.
- Break long forms into smaller sections – Long forms can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate. Breaking up long forms into smaller sections makes them easier to use for everyone.
- Provide error feedback – If an error occurs while submitting a form, provide feedback to the user, so they know what went wrong and how to fix it.
- Use native HTML form controls – Native HTML form controls are accessible by default with all assistive technologies, so using them will help ensure your form is accessible to all users.
- Support keyboard navigation – Keyboard navigation should be supported in order for users who cannot use a mouse or trackpad to interact with the form successfully.
- Use clear visual labels instead of placeholder text – Placeholder text can be confusing and hard to read when using screen readers, so it’s better to use clear visual labels instead of placeholder text when possible.
- Code a logical tab order – The tab order should follow the logical flow of the form from top to bottom and left to right so that users can easily navigate through the fields without getting lost or confused about where they are in the process of filling out the form.
Provide Multiple Navigation Options for Improved Accessibility
Forms should be designed with consideration for those who may have difficulty using a mouse or keyboard, such as those with motor impairments or visual impairments.
When designing forms, it is important to ensure they are easy to understand and navigate. This includes providing clear instructions on how to fill out the form and making sure labels are clearly associated with their corresponding fields. It is important to provide feedback when users make mistakes so they can correct them easily.
Ensuring that forms are compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers is also important. This means including alternative text for images and ensuring that the tab order of elements follows a logical sequence. Moreover, providing keyboard shortcuts for common tasks such as submitting the form or resetting it is important.
Use Tables for Tabular Data, Not for Layout
One of the key steps to improving website accessibility is to use tables for tabular data, not for layout. Tables should be used to present information in a logical and organised way, such as comparing products or services.
Tables should not be used for page layout purposes as this can make it difficult for screen readers and other assistive technologies to interpret the content. For example, if a table is used to create columns on a page, it can be difficult for screen readers to distinguish between the different elements on the page. Additionally, using tables for layout can cause problems with responsiveness when viewed on different devices.
Using CSS instead of tables can help ensure your website is accessible and responsive. CSS allows you to create page layouts without tables while providing an organised structure. It also allows you to control how elements are displayed on different devices so that they look consistent across all platforms.
Make Content Keyboard-Accessible and User-Friendly
Making content keyboard-accessible and user-friendly is an important step in improving website accessibility. This involves making sure that users can navigate through the website using only a keyboard and that the content is easy to understand and use.
One way to make content keyboard-accessible is by providing clear navigation menus and links. This means ensuring all links are clearly labelled so users can easily find what they seek. It’s important to provide shortcuts for frequently used actions, such as pressing the “Tab” key to move between different elements on the page.
Properly Use ARIA Roles and Landmarks for Enhanced Accessibility
ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications and is a set of attributes that can be added to HTML elements to help make them more accessible.
ARIA roles provide additional information about the purpose of an element on a page, such as whether it is a navigation menu or a search box. Landmarks are regions within a page with a specific meaning, such as the main content area or the footer. By properly using ARIA roles and landmarks, we can ensure that our websites are more easily navigable by people with disabilities who use assistive technologies like screen readers.
When adding ARIA roles and landmarks to your website, it’s essential to use them correctly. For example, suppose you’re adding an ARIA role for a navigation menu. In that case, you should also add an appropriate landmark, so that screen readers know what type of content they’re navigating through. Moreover, when defining multiple landmarks on one page, ensure they don’t overlap or conflict.
Make It Easy for Everyone to Access Your Site
Use Clear and Readable Fonts
Using clear and readable fonts is essential for ensuring your website is accessible. This means selecting a font that is easy to read, such as Arial or Calibri, and making sure the text size is large enough so that all users can easily read it. If possible, you should also provide an option for users to increase or decrease the text size on your website, as this will further help those with sight impairments.
Provide Options for Font Size and Line Spacing
Allowing users to adjust your website’s font size and line spacing can make a huge difference for those with sight impairments. Providing an option for users to increase or decrease the font size on your website is important, as this can help them comfortably read the content. Providing an option for users to adjust line spacing can also help make text easier to read, particularly for people with dyslexia.
When designing these options, you should aim to provide an easy-to-use slider that allows users to quickly and easily adjust the font size and line spacing as needed. You should also offer a ‘reset’ button so that they can revert back to the original settings if they wish.
Use Accessible Captchas and Verification Processes
Using accessible captchas and verification processes are important to making your website or app more accessible to those with disabilities. When creating a captcha or other verification process, ensure it can be completed via alternative methods such as audio recording or keypad input. This will ensure that users who cannot use a traditional mouse and keyboard can still access the site.
In addition, it’s important to provide visual cues when possible. For example, if you use a simple math problem as a captcha, add an additional text-based description so those with impaired vision can understand the question.
Offer Alternative Ways to Access Your Site
Offering alternative ways to access your website or app is a great way to ensure that everyone can enjoy the same user experience, regardless of abilities or disabilities. For example, if you offer an audio version of your content or a transcript for those with hearing impairments, users will likely appreciate having these options available.
In addition, providing alternative ways for users to interact with your site can benefit those with physical disabilities or motor impairments. You could offer a large button mode or a voice search interface so users don’t struggle to navigate complex menus.
Making your website or app more accessible to those with disabilities is vital in creating a user-friendly experience for everyone. As technology continues to evolve, so will the various methods of website and app accessibility.
By utilising accessible captchas and verification processes, offering alternative ways to access your site, and using assistive technologies, you can ensure that all users have the same enjoyable experience when visiting your website or using your app in 2023.