What is Web Accessibility?

The Web is a central tool in most of our lives. The incorporation of the Web into our daily lives is why Web Accessibility is increasingly important. Consider the use of the web in education, commerce, health care and social inclusion. Allowing all people to easily access and interpret the web not only opens a world of possibilities for people but is almost a requirement for daily life in today’s world.  Today we’re going to learn why you should focus on accessibility and how to evaluate and improve your website.

Who relies on Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to websites, by people with disabilities. When sites are correctly designed, developed and edited, all users have equal access to information and functionality.

What’s fascinating about Web Accessibility is its increasing importance to all people using the web, with or without disabilities. People using mobile phones, smart watches, smart automobile apps, smart TVs, and all other smart devices rely on Web Accessibility standards to ensure an optimal user experience on all smart devices.

The Opportunity and Challenge

Making your business an inclusive, accessible place for all people is simply the right, socially conscience, thing to do. As business owners we are often forced to balance and prioritize the right thing to do with our budget and the return on investment. Is there a business case for investing in web accessibility? Absolutely!

Let’s start first by examining the market of individuals with disabilities. Globally, people with disabilities represent the fastest growing consumer market. A 2016 study, by the Return on Disabilities Group, on the global economics of disability, estimates the global disability market to be approximately 1.3 billion people. This is an emerging market the size of China! Their friends and family add another 2.4 billion potential consumers who make purchasing decisions based on their emotional connection to persons with disabilities.

If that isn’t a big enough market for you to consider an investment in Web Accessibility remember that all smart devices and search engines are increasingly relying on accessible designs to present your website to users, with and without disabilities. The smart device market is quite simply exploding!
Mobile Phone Market: According to a recent survey, adults view the Internet from a mobile phones more than 51% of the time. A responsible, accessible website makes your business more accessible to these users.
Smart TV Market: The global smart TV market is expected to reach USD 292.55 billion by 2025.
Smart Cars: “BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, expects 94 million connected cars to ship in 2021, and for 82% of all cars shipped in that year to be connected. This would represent a compound annual growth rate of 35% from 21 million connected cars in 2016.”

And we could go on and on. The simple fact of the matter is the Internet of Things(IoT) market is exploding and it relies on Web Accessibility to read and interpret your website.

Tips for Making Your Website Accessible

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops international standards for the Web. We’re talking HTML, CSS and other web-related technologies. The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is an effort to improve accessibility of the web for people with disabilities. Web designers and developers help to develop and follow the W3C standards to ensure their designs are compatibility with a variety of devices and allow for the inclusion of all people on the web.

1. Choose a platform and theme that supports accessibility
We recommend choosing WordPress. WordPress is by far the leader of Content Management Systems and the WordPress team has adopted accessibility coding standards. The WordPress Accessibility Coding Standards state that “All new or updated code released in WordPress must conform with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines at level AA.Even though the WordPress team strives to conform to accessibility guidelines, theme developers may not honor these same standards. At Fluid Minds, we have been using the Divi theme for WordPress for the majority of our websites for several years now. Divi is compatible with screen readers and the user experience is outstanding on a variety of devices. We are so happy with the Divi theme we have become affiliates and highly recommend you check out it out and let us know what you think!

2. Content is king
The information on your website should be simple and easy to comprehend. Crowded text, lots of images, videos and ads make the page difficult to read. Spend some time focusing on designing your page so it’s easy to read. Pay special attention to the use of white, or empty, space on the page. Proper use of white space can dramatically improve the readability.

3. Formatting
Screen readers use your website’s heading structure to navigate the content. Think of it like the outline of your page. Heading 1, 2, 3, etc. serve as the outline headings and sub-headings. Properly used, headers can help screen readers and search engines understand the content on your page. Quick tip: Do not confuse style with formatting. In other words, don’t choose a heading because it looks good visually. Choose it because it’s the correct heading for the outline. If you need the heading to look different setup separate styles to achieve the visual goals.

4. Add alt text for images
Screen readers and search engines cannot interpret images like a human can. They rely on the alternate text for images to understand the message the image is attempting to convey to the user. As you upload and include images on your page, pay special attention to adding valuable alt text to each image.

5. Contrast
Choosing high contrasting color combinations assists all users, not just those impaired, to more easily navigate your website.

Website Accessibility Tools

There are many considerations and guidelines surrounding website accessibility. As with all trades having the right tools in your toolbelt can make building a quality product so much easier. Here are a couple of my favorite tools to use for validating website compliance to accessibility.

WAVE Browser Extensions by WebAIM

The WAVE Browser Extensions are available for both Chrome and Firefox. These handy extensions identify compliance issues quickly and run entirely within your web browser, ensuring no information is sent to the WAVE server.

Chrome Accessibility Audits

This audits are built into the Chrome browser and can give you great information on Accessibility, Performance, SEO and a variety of other items.

To run an audit:

  1. Open the Chrome browser
  2. Navigate to your website.
  3. Open the Developer Tools (ctrl, shift, i)
  4. Select the Audit tab. Here you can run an audit on a variety of items, accessibility being one of them. Results will be listed in the window for you to review.

Investing in a website that is designed in compliance with web accessibility standards will remove barriers of entry and allow your customers to digest your content and interact with your business. Giving attention to the details of accessibility will result in more satisfied customers who trust and rely on your business.

Is your website accessible? Leave us a comment and share your experiences with web accessibility compliance.