Approximately 15% of the world’s population has some form of permanent disability. Combining this with those that suffer from a temporary disability, website accessibility is important to ensure that users with specific needs can interact with your site content. Here are some of the most important steps and best practices to follow to improve your website accessibility today.
- Make Your Site Keyboard-Friendly
Accessible content should be navigable without a mouse. Using just the “Tab” key or a pointer, the end user can move through the different pages and their elements with this fully navigational key. This includes the ability to interact with forms, drop-down menus, links, buttons, widgets, and more. Test your website without a mouse to ensure all content can be accessed currently in this manner.
- Adding Alt Text to Images
Screen readers cannot interpret the object of images unless alt text is included. This not only allows search engines to see the image on the page and boost content but also assists the visually impaired whom it is vital to describe the image. If the image is simply serving an added visual effect and not being used as a part of the content then there is no need to include an alt tag.
- Be Smart with Your Headers
Headers serve the purpose of telling assistive reading technology how to interpret the structure of the content on the webpage. There is a certain hierarchy that follows starting at the title, followed by H1 and H2 headings for all subheadings. Additional H3 and H4 headings fall under H2 headings to assist with simplifying your content layout and further breaking down key points.
- Include Captions in Videos and Transcripts
All audio files should include a closed caption, transcript, and sign-language interpretation, if possible, to help users with certain impairments to gain access to audio content. Captions can either be open to increasing visibility when videos are played or turned off and made closed caption instead and accessible only as needed.
- Think Accessibility with Forms
Forms should include clear labels and set up for easy key navigation with the “Tab” key to proceed to the next field on the form. For the visually impaired, the screen reader will be able to properly identify each section to assist the user by guiding what needs to be filled out. Common field identifiers are first name, last name, mailing address, and email address to name just a few.
- Make CAPTCHA Accessible
CAPTCHA is used to prevent spam form submissions but is not always truly accessible. It may require the interpretation of visual information or distorted letter and numbers can be difficult to discern. A better approach to making CAPTCHA accessible includes PHP code that can detect spam URLs and form fields that require a configuration to validate fields and weed out spam.
- Add Descriptive Links
It is important for screen readers to have descriptive contextual links when possible, to communicate where the user will be going. For example, when using the words “learn more” use a description to the link such as “learn more about our service by clicking here to discover our different pricing options and packages.”
- Confirm Your Website Accessibility
It is important to check your website and test out the various accessibility functions currently in place to ensure your users with different needs can truly access your content no matter their range of disability. With the number of automated functions in place today, user testing is still the best way to ensure compliance and proper accessibility.