How to make your website more accessible for visitors with disabilities
Is your website accessible to everyone? If not, it’s time to invest in some upgrades. An accessible website is one that can be used and enjoyed by people with any number of disabilities, from hearing impairments to vision limitations. According to CNBC, less than 2% of the 350 million websites in the U.S. are accessible to those with disabilities. The good news is that business owners like you can help make the internet a more welcoming place for people with mental and physical disabilities and those who require the use of assistive technology.
Making your website more accessible might seem like a big undertaking, but with the right tools, resources, and professionals on your side, you can make quick work of the process. Here, Simple.ink explains how.
Why Accessibility is Important
Before we explore all the ways you can make your website more accessible, here’s why you should care. Did you know that 1 in 4 American adults have a disability? That’s over 60 million consumers who might not be able to access your website, use your services, or buy your products. Think about the potential loss of income! Beyond this, enhancing your website accessibility is an important step towards building a positive reputation for your business, and, as ZenBusiness succinctly states, it’s the right thing to do.
Web accessibility can also have SEO benefits. According to Perficient, websites that include accessibility features like alt text, keyboard focus, headers, and resizable text are more likely to rank higher in search engine results, increasing your online brand visibility. Google prioritizes accessible websites in search rankings, so improving your accessibility can help you get ahead of your competitors!
It’s also important to note that many countries have laws regarding website accessibility. Making your website accessible can save you from a lawsuit! The best way to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to conform with the recommendations outlined in the most recent version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG outlines everything you should do to improve the accessibility of your website. Even if you’re not worried about lawsuits, it’s just morally and ethically right to ensure everyone has equal access to your content.
Where to Get Help with Accessibility
If you’re like more business owners, you don’t really know where to start when it comes to accessibility upgrades. This is where it makes sense to hire a professional. Connect with a website accessibility consultant or freelance accessibility specialist for help determining your next steps.
Some other people you may need to hire include web developers, designers, and copywriters with special expertise in accessibility. For example, if you want to make your website more accommodating to people with hearing impairments, work with a web designer who can help you implement impactful upgrades.
Where to Start
There are many ways to make your website more accessible, but some techniques are easier to implement than others. Start with simple upgrades that will quickly improve accessibility. For example, start by adjusting the colors on your website to make your text more readable, adding alt text to pictures, and writing closed captions and subtitles for videos.
Navigation is one of the most important elements of any website. Could someone with limited hearing, vision, or mobility navigate your website easily? Many people with disabilities rely on assistive technology like screen readers to navigate websites. If your website cannot properly communicate with the user’s assistive technology, your visitor will have a hard time consuming your content. Plan for users who may not be able to see and make sure people can navigate your website using the keyboard only.
Restructure Your Website
Well-structured websites allow people with disabilities to navigate more efficiently and scroll through content instead of reading everything on every page. For example:
- Keyboard users can navigate through page sections and links without using the mouse.
- People with learning disabilities can find the content they’re looking for.
- People with screen readers can skip main content and easily navigate to specific sections.
- Following a linear and logical page layout will also help search engines better understand the information on your website, ultimately boosting your SEO.
Restructuring a website for better accessibility isn’t easy. You will need to alter your website code to add HTML elements that define different regions of your web page, including a header, a footer, navigation, subheadings, forms, lists, and more. If this all sounds too complicated, connect with a web developer who can help you out!
Produce Content with Accessibility in Mind
Accessibility goes beyond the design and layout of your website. A truly accessible website makes content easy to understand and follow, regardless of whether someone has a mental or physical disability. These are some best practices:
- When you write content for your website, keep it simple and straightforward.
- Use headings and subheadings to break up your text into digestible sections.
- Use descriptive titles to identify the purpose of each web page or article.
- Explain abbreviations the first time you use them.
- Write meaningful link text so that it describes the link.
- Provide clear instructions for forms.
- For every image on your website that isn’t purely decorative, write text that describes the purpose or function of the image.
The platform you choose to build your website on can have a big impact on your ability to implement these accessibility features on your own. WordPress, for example, includes built-in accessibility features that can quickly improve the accessibility of your website content. Consider building your website on a platform like this to make everything easier.
Today, there’s no reason a website should be inaccessible to people with disabilities. We all deserve equal access to the valuable resources, tools, and information available on the internet. Whether you run a lucrative ecommerce website or a simple blog, make sure website visitors with disabilities can get the most out of your business!
Are you ready to build a brand new website that looks great, is easy to build and meets accessibility guidelines? Then check out Simple.ink’s website builder Notion today. Best of all, you can start building your website for free!
(Article written by Lance Cody-Valdez)