Making Your Website More Inclusive: Practical Steps to Improve Accessibility for People with Disabilities
You’re probably aware of how we make spaces more accessible to people with disabilities. Wheelchair ramps, designated parking spaces, and braille are available in public areas. The internet must follow suit, just as we have made changes to make the physical world more inclusive.
After all, we live so much of our lives online. People with disabilities require the same level of web access whether they use computers, smartphones, or tablets.
For visually impaired people, this means using software that reads websites aloud to them. However, not every website is designed to be easily read by these programmes. Then there are those who may not have full hand functionality. Instead of the standard scroll option, they could use voice input to navigate through your site. If you don’t understand how these systems work and what cues they pick up on, you’re unlikely to create an accessible site.
So, how do you make a website more user-friendly? Here are five ways that ill can make a difference.
Making Use of Alt-Text
You’ve probably heard of “alt-text” if you’ve done any research on SEO or accessibility. This is the text that appears on the backend of your website for each photo on a page. Because it’s a good place to add keywords, it’s used for SEO. More importantly, it’s intended to be a place where you can describe what you see in the image.
People who are visually impaired use software that reads websites aloud to them. A good description of photography in the alt-text is critical for these people to get the full experience of your website and what your brand is trying to convey.
Graphics and PDFs
Graphics and PDFs, like photos, must be readable on your website. You could create a lovely graphic with some important text and upload it directly to your website. However, no text will be picked up by someone using reading software. It is preferable to design your website so that the text is readable rather than part of a graphic.
This also applies to PDFs. Unfortunately, if you point someone to a PDF, they will not be able to read it. If you use PDFs for fillable forms, you should consider embedding a form on your website instead. Any information you want to convey through a PDF should be available on your website as text instead.
Tags for Headings
Another important SEO tool, heading tags can help provide an outline to your website for those who use a tool to read the site.
When someone with a disability visits this blog, they can, for example, jump around the page to find the section of the article that is most interesting to them. The outline of your heading tags is used to divide the page (H1, H2, H3, and so on.) Perhaps someone stumbles across this blog and hears the title readout as the H1 tag. Instead of just reading the entire article, the reading software can read out all of the H2 tags on the page, allowing the person visiting the site to decide whether or not to read it.
They can read the entire section or skip through the H3 tags once they get to that H2 section. It’s essentially a bulleted list for each page on your website.
It can become confusing if you do not use your heading tags as a clear outline.
The pages on your website will most likely link to other pages via navigation, but there may be times when you embed a link in the copy itself. The manner in which you do this is critical for accessibility.
We mentioned that tools that read out your website can skip around the page by clicking on the headings, but those same tools can also click on the links to find the correct information. Assume your website has a bunch of links that simply say “Read More,” and when the reading software jumps between these links, that’s all that will be read aloud. Instead, you want to add some context to the text. “Read more about our services” or simply “Our Services” would suffice.
Not only would these types of links be more appropriate for accessibility, but they could also benefit your website’s SEO by including keywords.
Test the Site on Different Platforms
Finally, make certain that your website has been thoroughly tested on desktop, mobile, and tablet devices. This should be standard practise for any website these days, but it is also critical to test for accessibility in each version.
People with disabilities, like anyone else who visits your site, use websites in a variety of ways. All visitors must have a positive user experience.
Do You Need Assistance Making Your Website Accessible?
We’re here to assist you in making your website compliant with web accessibility standards. Remember that your website can still be interactive and visually appealing while also being user-friendly to all users. To get started, contact us.