What Is Web Accessibility and Why Is It Important?
Website accessibility, also commonly referred to as eAccessibility, is a term used to describe the inclusive practice that ensures all types of users — including those with disabilities — can easily navigate and use a website. To put it simply, it means that a website doesn’t have inherent barriers to use. This is true regardless of whether a user has physical or situational disabilities or socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.There are many types of disabilities, and webmasters need to take them all into account when designing and maintaining a website. This can be a challenge, to be sure — but it's also critically important to make sure that your pages are… Click To Tweet
Types of Website Accessibility
All told, there are a few different elements to be concerned with when it comes to website accessibility. These include but are not limited to ones like:
- Site accessibility of website content: A site should make it easy to read and navigate content, with images, links, and videos as prime examples.
- Accessibility of website design: The structure of a site should be flexible enough to allow for differences in user preferences. One user may be color-blind. For example – they should still enjoy the same high-quality user experience.
- Site accessibility for interaction: Users should have at least two options for interacting with a website. For example, they should be able to use mouse or keyboard shortcuts.
- Site accessibility for cognition: A website should meet cognitive level requirements by making things easy to understand, regardless of education or reading level.
As site owners working in tandem with web developers, your aim is to fulfill the requirements outlined by the ADA and ensure that all content is available to everyone — regardless of their abilities. This is a matter that will only become more important as time goes on. Accessible Website compliance is just one of the many things your website should satisfy. We invite you to download this Website Checklist eBook to make sure you have everything covered.
ADA Compliance: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?
In the mid-1990s, countries like the US began pursuing internet accessibility for all. and the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. As a direct implication of this, the act requires that any website open to the public must be accessible to those who have conditions.
This could include making sure that all content is readable by a screen reader, providing alternate text for images, or having a page that is easy to navigate.
There are many additional reasons why an accessible website is essential, mostly revolving around the user experience. For example, if a page isn’t accessible and someone with a disability tries to access it, they may not understand the content or could end up getting lost on the web page. Both of these can harm your larger brand reputation.
Is ADA Compliance a Legal Requirement?
Yes, digital accessibility is legally required under the ADA. Web designers need to make sure their web pages are accessible to all people.
What are Some Safety Concerns Related to Website Accessibility?
Internet accessibility has yet to be fully implemented. Thus, it’s undoubtedly a concern that people with disabilities may not be able to use all the features of a website – this harms their ability to fully interact with your brand. This could include not being able to see or hear what’s on the page, not being able to navigate around the page, or successfully making a purchase or contacting your brand.
Suppose someone has difficulty interacting with your website. In that case, you can all but guarantee that they won’t be returning – which is problematic if yours is a business that depends mainly on repeat customers.
Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
If you’re not sure if you’ve sufficiently complied with ADA’s guidelines, you can use this website accessibility checker or do accessibility testing to find out.
Web Accessibility Guidelines
The guidelines outline several solutions to make an accessible website. Here are 10 of the most important ones from the list:
1. Make sure all content is understandable by a screen reader, whether on mobile or desktop.
2. Provide alternate text for images, so they can be understood by people with visual impairments or those with slow internet connections.
3. Make navigation easy to understand. Make sure all content is easy to find and navigate, and use clear labels for all links and buttons. This also helps with speech software and voice-search.
4. Make sure forms are easy to fill out. Include clear instructions and make all form fields easy to identify and enter information into.
5. Test accessibility with different types of disabilities.
6. Use accessible fonts and colors throughout the design. Choose fonts and colors that are easy to read for people with visual impairments, and avoid using flashy or hard-to-read colors.
7. Make sure your videos have captions.
8. Create an accessible layout.
9. Use accessible templates. Many templates are already available to people with disabilities, so choosing one of these is essential when designing your website.
10. Understand the overall importance of accessibility and how it impacts the online community.
Accessibility Websites to Draw Inspiration From
If improving your site’s accessibility, the following websites can provide additional detail and support:
- The American Foundation for the Blind – They provide different guidelines, video tutorials, and accessible templates that can be used to build a website that is ADA compliant.
- WebAIM – WebAIM provides actionable guidelines for your website. It also offers disability-related news and links to other sites. There are templates for people with visual impairments, motor impairments, auditory impairments, and cognitive disabilities. They also offer website accessibility checkers so users can find out if their site is compliant with ADA requirements.
- AbilityNet – AbilityNet exists to improve the lives of people with disabilities and older people by helping them to use computers and other digital technology. This includes providing access to information, training, and support.
All the best practices outlined above are important because they help fulfill the requirements outlined in the ADA. But more than that, it is our legal obligation to make sure that content is available to everyone in the online community – which in and of itself is the most crucial benefit of all. On your journey to create a more accessible website, you may also consider an app that serves as an overlay to your website. While it is not a full-proof solution, it is cost-effective to be more compliant. We researched affordable ways to modify existing sites without costly coding or redesign. That’s why we became an affiliate of accessiBe. We get a nominal reward, yet we would use (and recommend) the plugin regardless of affiliation.
What is accessiBe and what does it do?
accessiBe is a SaaS solution that works WordPress designed to help users with various disabilities navigate your website. The solution works with WordPress. The accessiBe icon is located in the right corner of the website and expands once clicked upon. Since accessiBe is a visual system, it can be customized to match your brand’s color palette. The plugin also works behind the scenes for visitors that use a screen reader. This functionality enables users to navigate the website without having to “see” the content. You can see it here on our homepage. As you can see, the disability icon is small and discreet until activated. If you’d like help adding accessiBe or refreshing your WordPress website, let’s have an initial discussion.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, web accessibility is legally required according to the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA), a civil rights law signed in 1990. The law accommodates all people with disabilities and how they access your business (physical locations, website, etc).
If you do not comply with the accessibility guidelines stated on the ADA’s website, you risk litigation from parties who claim they cannot easily navigate your website or do business with you. According to the Wall Street Journal, lawsuits claiming digital violations are on the rise.
Think of web accessibility as part of user experience, which is an important factor for search engines. While each search engine has its own version of Webmaster guidelines, we suggest including alt text for images, avoiding empty headings, using descriptive anchor texts, and adding transcripts and captions to your videos. As the web evolves, the above list continues to grow.