The internet is one of humankind’s greatest inventions. It simplifies our lives dramatically and provides us with instant access to knowledge, opportunities, social connections, products, goods, and services. To most of us, it’s almost unthinkable to be closed off from the internet and lose access to its many benefits. Just the thought of living in today’s world without our smartphones, laptop, and internet access is unbearable. Let alone actually living like so. For many people with disabilities, unfortunately, this is the reality.
Most websites are built to be used with a mouse or a touch screen, not with assistive technologies like screen readers and keyboards. These are the tools used by many people with disabilities to access and operate their computers.
And this is where web accessibility comes in. Web accessibility is the consideration for site visitors who have a visual, auditory or motor skills impairment that affects their ability to use your website. In this article, we will be talking about tools and methods used to improve access to existing websites/technologies for individuals with disabilities that impact their use of technology.
Why is this be important to any business? There are two really good reasons:
- One is in the number of users with some form of impairment affecting their ability to use your site. If you knew that 20% could not use your website, wouldn’t you make changes to allow them access?
- The other important reason are the legal implications to your business. In the USA and parts of Canada, strong penalties have been recently been put into law to enforcement new laws requiring accessibility.
The testing standard are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAG). While WGAG has had accessibility guidelines for a long time, it is the recent introduce of legislation and accompanying enforcement processes that will really impact businesses.
Things to look for on your website include:
- Headings – Do the headings highlight proper heading & order violations (<h1>,<h2>,h3> etc)? This is important because there some readers use these to guide visually impaired site visitors through your website. It can be as simple telling the visitor the ordering of the headings, or as complex as a visual reader using the ordering to read more complex structures.
- Contrast – As you might imagine, visually impaired visitors appreciate labels with sufficient contrast and colour schemes that they can read.
- Link Text – Background link code identifies links that may be confusing when read with a screen reader
- Labels – Forms and other site elements that require user input require identifiers so that the user can input information. If these identifiers are missing, then the user doesn’t know to input information.
- Image alt-text – Images on your site should have ‘alt text’ so that the visitors readers an locate and describe the image.
- Landmarks – labels all ARIA landmarks
- Screen Reader Wand – views elements as a screen reader would
Your site should also be testing for Cognition, Dyslexia, Motor, and Vision disabilities or challenges, such as:
- Aging which replicates lowered vision and trembling hands.
- Blurry Vision which replicates viewing without prescribed glasses or contact lenses.
- Colour Blindness which renders the site in a way that someone with colour blindness would experience.
- Hand Motor impairment which replicates an impairment that affects about 12% of the population.
- Keyboard Control Simulator, without the use of a mouse. This replicates the challenges of using only a keyboard to navigate, often directing the user to an unintended location and taking a long time to perform actions. This hand motor impairment is experienced by about 12% of the population.
- Loss of Central Vision which replicates someone who has lost their peripheral vision function.
- Partial Vision loss which replicates “tunnel vision,” or partial vision loss.
- Outdoors contrast (mobile device) which replicates the site as viewed in bright sunshine, affecting the contrast ratios.
If you feel that it’s time for a free review of your digital web accessibility, contact ASC Creative today.