Making your Website Accessible
In part 2 of our three part series on Website Accessibility, we discussed how to determine if your website is accessible. Now, in our final installment, our aim is to give you some guidelines on how to make your website accessible.
You’ve tested your website, and you’ve found there are errors. Now what?
Call your Website Developer!
I’m not going to sugar coat this. Making your website accessible is not something anyone can just do. Much of the work will be “behind the scenes” and affect the site in a way that someone not using an assistive device would never even realize.
Here’s a basic list of some of the key points involved in making your site accessible. You’ll want your developer to ensure the following:
- Site is fully navigable with mouse-only
- Site is fully navigable with keyboard-only
- Site viewport is zoomable
- Visually hidden screen reader text used throughout site in conjunction with aria-labels
- Hidden skip links (Skip to Content) available for screen readers and keyboard-only navigation
- High contrast option available. Users can enable high contrast mode to view all content as white-on-black (or ensure the site is already designed for enough contrast)
- Site layout fully based on REM font size, optimized for customized zoom per browser specifications
- Focus state available for all clickable elements for keyboard navigation
- Print styles available for simple printing
- All images have full alt text descriptions
- All videos have transcripts
- All audio has transcripts
- Titles and aria-labels used for site structure and context
- Contextual HTML5 used (Header, Nav, Aside, Footer elements)
- HTML5 role properties for document structure (header, navigation, contentinfo)
- Email contact is available for any accessibility troubleshooting
- Continuous updates for bug fixes and feature additions
This all sounds complicated and expensive. Isn’t there a widget I can just add to my website? I’ve seen them on other websites…
Believe me… I hear you. Unfortunately, that’s not really how the whole issue of website accessibility works.
Think of it like this: You may need to provide a ramp into a store for access to people who require the use of a wheelchair, but you don’t have to provide the wheelchair.
In other words–you need to make your website accessible so those with impairments can use the tools they already use.
Using one of those toolbars or widgets is kind of like saying: Sure you can have access, but you have to get out of your wheelchair and use ours.
This is the guideline that is widely accepted as “what to follow” for web accessibility. (If you have trouble reading it, you aren’t alone. Many developers have trouble digesting this too)
Using one of those widgets doesn’t address most of the issues in the WCAG guidelines.
In many cases, companies are using the easy-to-add plugins/toolbars as a stop-gap while they work on actually doing the more difficult work of restructuring and rebuilding a website.
I called my developer, had all this work done to my website, so I’m done now, right?
Nope! Part of making your site accessible means keeping it accessible.
Most websites these days are built with content management systems (such as WordPress), making it easy for you to update content on your own website.
But that means you need to make sure, as you add that content or edit content, you are doing the work necessary to keep that content accessible, such as:
- Utilizing H1 – H5 tags in headers in a well-structured way
- Adding Alt tags to all images that you add to the website
- Including transcripts or captions on videos
- Including transcripts of audio content
- Providing contextual links (links that describe where they are linking to, rather than links like “Click Here”)
There may be a lack of regulation from Washington D.C. on websites and the ADA. The many lawsuits that have been filed against businesses whose websites aren’t accessible may leave a bad taste in your mouth. Yet, it’s hard to argue the fact that, if you have the means, making your website accessible is just good business sense.