This post follows an earlier one in which I explored three common myths associated with accessible web design and, I hope, soundly busted them. The third myth was all about accessible design being seen as too hard – a position I do have sympathy for given the complicated guidelines that cover design. I’m on a quest to make it easier – especially for non-technical people like me! I’ve compiled five rules we can all live by and which you can implement on your website straight away.
I’d love to know any other ones that are important to you (as a designer or user who accesses the web using assistive technology) – let me know in in the comments below!
Five ways to make the web a more welcoming place for everyone
1. Build it right
Find a developer that understands accessibility and WCAG 2.0 and get them to show you other examples of their work. Choose a content management platform that has an inbuilt accessibility checker and build templates that comply. Don’t rely on this though – your best test is to get people who live with a disability to use it (see Point 5).
2. Make visuals be seen and heard
Anything visual should be also able to be converted to text so it can be read and interpreted by screen readers. This includes:
- Providing descriptive alternative (alt) text for images so that people without vision can ‘read’ what they are about.
- Captioning or including a transcript for all videos – this is actually really useful for anyone who doesn’t want to use sound (for example, people watching video in an open plan office).
- Ensuring the colors you use contrast and are clearly interpreted. Vision Australia provide a contrast analyser for download or WebAim have a browser based one. Both are great.
3. Ensure text can be understood
Unless you are writing for a specific audience you should aim for a reading reading grade of around 8-9 (test at www.read-able.com). This post, for example, has a reading grade of 10 which means it should be able to be understood by people aged 15-16 – a happy place for me writing a professional blog. It means my post is likely to be understood by (and therefore has the best chances of reaching) the broadest audience (including people who might have English as a second language). It probably also helps with search as I am more likely to be using common search terms when I write in plain English.
Try to make all links descriptive, use the right headings and avoid the use of PDF where possible. You can make PDF accessible but it is fiddly and probably not worth the effort. If you must use it, do what I have done here and include a PDF (below) and also make sure all information is also included in the HTML layer (here).
4. Make movement easy
Keep your navigation logical and remove clutter from your pages. Use patterns for consistency – make things behave in the same way each time and appear in the same place. Simplicity is key. A useful check is to try and navigate your website using a keyboard only. You can even try using a screen reader (for example, Apple has inbuilt accessibility tools you can access for free or use these accessibility tools designed for Windows)
5. Test it to make sure you have it right
Get someone who relies on assistive technology to use it. Vision Australia offer user testing services just like this. Or do a simple online audit like WebAim’s WAVE online tool to test how well it works.
Feel free to download my website accessibility checklist and poster. I am happy for you to use it/ share it/ do whatever you want with it as long as you link to this website and credit me.
5 ways to make the web a more welcoming place for everyone [PDF download]