The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not just about ensuring wheelchair accessibility in physical premises like shopping malls. It extends to digital properties, such as your very own business website, as well.
Simply put, web accessibility is an indispensable part of modern website design. It means ensuring that your website is designed in a way such that people with disabilities can use them. In other words, an accessible website is one that accommodates all users on all devices no matter the physical or mental ability of the user.
You see, nearly 26% (one in four) of adults in the United States live with a disability. So, making your website more accessible is not only the right thing to do, but failing to make your website accessible will automatically turn away this potential client base before you’ve even had an opportunity to introduce your business.
What’s more, not making your website accessible leaves can attract costly lawsuits and claims by advocacy groups. In fact, discussions about website accessibility have increased and according to a recent report by UsableNet, 2018 saw a 181% increase in Federal ADA lawsuits over 2017.
So, make no mistake — website accessibility deserves your utmost attention. Here are nine ways to improve your site’s accessibility without spending big on time, money, or effort:
Ensure Proper Colour Contrast
Colour contrast is all about how well one colour differentiates from another on your website. Without sufficient contrast in colours, it can be really difficult for visually challenged visitors to navigate the page.
By using properly-contrasting colours, your website’s content and buttons become sharp enough for people with poor vision to read comfortably. This, in turn, results in comfortable user experience for everyone.
Have an Alt Text With All Images
Without fail, add an alt attribute for all images on your website so that the content is usable by people who use assistive technology. Without the alt text, visually impaired users can’t fully access your content, which means failed ADA compliance.
Screen readers can’t understand images, so it’s critical that proper alt text is provided which details the visual accurately. And as an added bonus, alt text also helps boost your website’s rankings as search engine bots can’t crawl image files either.
Include Closed Captions for Videos
Just like alt text in the case of images, videos must also be closed-captioned so the content can be consumed by visitors who are hard-of-hearing.
As you likely already know, captions are text alternatives of the audio content, synced with the video. For the hearing-impaired, captions and text transcripts are essential.
Make Your Website Keyboard-Friendly
People with mobility disabilities may not be able to use a mouse or trackpad to browse your website. And so, enabling keyboard-only navigation on your website is crucial. This means all activities that can be done with a mouse need to be fulfilled with a keyboard.
Plus, users who have sight but navigate using the keyboard should be able to know where they are on the page. So, there must be a visible focus indicator that distinguishes the active element the user is currently selecting.
Create A Logical Outline Hierarchy
HTML headings (H1-H6) should always be nested as it would be in a document outline, because screen readers depend on headings (and other web elements) to navigate content.
That is, an H3 would indicate a sub-section within an H2 section — implying you should never come across an H3 that is not contained by an H2. Skipping heading levels can confuse screen readers into thinking that some content is missing from the web page, so always create a logical hierarchy of headings.
Also, make sure to use H1 only for the main title of the page, not more than once on any page.
Have Descriptive Anchor Text
Screen readers normally have a mode in which they can pull all the hyperlinks off of a page and list them out for smooth navigation. Consequently, the anchor text of each link must be descriptive so it makes sense when listed out of context.
Rather than just saying “Click here”, go for something like “To learn more about web accessibility, check out this guide.”
Besides, a descriptive anchor text also helps search engine crawlers understand your content and thus, leads to better rankings on Google. Not to mention “click here” links look bad and harm the user experience (UX). So, in a nutshell, don’t have any “click here” or even “view more” type of links on your website.
Add Labels to Forms
Just like alt text, labels are a crucial element to incorporate on your website so screen readers can deliver information to the visitor. For instance, if the field is for entering the mobile number, it should be labelled clearly as “Enter your mobile number”.
Test Your Site With Accessibility Testing Tools
Check out this web accessibility evaluation tools list compiled by W3C to make your life a tad bit easier. Scroll through the list and test your website for various possible accessibility issues.
Don’t think of ADA compliance as a complicated pain in the bum because, as you can see, there’s a lot you can easily improve upon.
Publish an Accessibility Statement
In essence, an accessibility statement is a declaration on your website that conveys your commitment to web accessibility. It clearly states your company’s target level of accessibility and what it is doing to achieve ADA compliance.
Accessibility statements are becoming fundamental to business websites and many visitors will seek them out as a sign of whether the business prioritizes equal access to information.
This post is not a comprehensive list of things you need to do to improve your site’s accessibility or make it fully ADA compliant. But putting the above-mentioned points in practice will get you started in the right direction.
Don’t procrastinate. Review your website for accessibility issues and fix them as soon as possible. Doing so will not only bring you more business but also prevent potential ADA lawsuits.