Learning How To Design For Accessibility

Web accessibility refers to the standards of creating digital content and applications that can be used by everyone, including individuals with visual, auditory, motor, speech, or cognitive limitations or disabilities. As many designers and developers wrongly assume that accessible web design is complicated and expensive, they often tend to ignore the incredible benefits such an approach brings to the organization, with being connected to all potential users being the most important one.

When designing a website from scratch, deciding to make it accessible will not add any additional features to your content, so you can forget about having to worry about extra costs or effort. However, if you’re fixing an already existing website that lacks a lot of accessible elements, you will need to spend some time on it and find the right person for the job. Luckily, once these issues are fixed, it will be easy to maintain an inclusive website that will be equally welcoming for all your visitors. 

Why Should You Decide To Design For Accessibility?

Designers have the power and responsibility to ensure that everyone who wants to access your websites can actually do it without any problem. After all, regardless of the ability, context, or situation, the idea of each website is to be available for everyone. Keep in mind that only in the United Stated nearly 1 in 5 have some kind of disability. If this doesn’t convince you of the importance of accessible design, maybe the fact that businesses benefit tremendously from having an inclusive website will. 

An inclusive website will have a better search result, reach a bigger audience, be SEO friendly, have a faster download time, and so much more. Because of all the above-mentioned reasons, Web Accessibility Standards 508 were created to serve as quality recommendations for the industry. 

Adding Color Contrast

Color contrast is often forgotten with web designers, but those users who have low vision will surely struggle to read the text if a background color is not contrasting the letter color. The sufficient contrast between text and backgrounds should be at least 4.5 to 1, and if you’re using larger and heavier fonts, you can ease up a little bit. 

If you’re uncertain about the color contrast you had in mind, you will find plenty of useful tools that will check this for you quickly, such as Contract App and WebAIM color contrast checker. Once the tool provides you with the results, you can change the colors you’ve chosen until you find the perfect match. 

Designing the Usable Focus States

If you’ve paid attention, you’ve probably noticed the blue outlines that show up around links, buttons, and inputs. These outlines are known as the focus indicators which are being used with accessibility in mind. At first, you might find them unpretty and will want to hide them, but you should definitely reconsider your decision as focus indicators help your web visitors understand which element has the keyboard focus. 

This tremendously simplifies the website navigation process for users who utilize screen readers, but also for those users with limited mobility, carpal tunnel injuries, and anybody who might prefer this form of navigating. The website elements that should be focusable are links, widgets, buttons, form fields, and menu items. 

Add Alternative Text To Images

People with visual limitations or impairments will often use screen readers to consume the information you have displayed on your website. A screen reader will convert text to speech so that the website visitor can hear the words you have on your website. But, what happens with visual elements on your website? As screen readers can’t read visuals, you will need to provide alternative text to images you add on the website so that the person with visual limitations or impairments can understand what’s on the image.

When thinking about what to add in your alt text, just try to simply describe what’s happening in the picture and how it fits the context of the article, page, or any type of content you have there. Make sure that all of your previous and future images have alt text before you publish them on the website. 

Wrap Up

Many website owners are still unaware of what elements they need to pay attention to if they wish to have an accessible website. That’s why it’s recommendable to seek 508 compliance consulting from professionals with experience in the field. They will go in and make all the needed changes, and even provide your team with the training of what to be aware of when publishing digital content from that point on. 

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