More than one in four U.S. adults have a disability. Odds are, many of your audience members have disabilities of their own. But as we rapidly shift toward a digital-first world, people with disabilities are all too often left out. As an agency, you have the chance to create websites that this underserved population navigate — just as easily as everyone else.
Creating accessible content isn’t as tedious or expensive as you might think. Just by following simple web content accessibility guidelines, like using the right fonts and colors, you can elevate your website. Read below to learn you can get started with web accessibility.
Why Is Accessibility Important in Content and Design?
Accessibility ensures that every website visitor gets the user experience you want to provide. For people with disabilities, accessible content is more welcoming, engaging, and easy to understand. This highly inclusive experience can help your clients reach and support more of their ideal customers.
Accessible websites can also help your clients stand out from competitors. Most websites are unreadable with assistive technology — and they often violate other web content accessibility guidelines, too. Your clients can instantly win a sale if they have the most accessible website. (And as a result, your agency gains loyal clients.)
On the other hand, an inaccessible website could prevent your clients from reaching a large portion of their target market. Imagine a restaurant serving one in five clients blank menus. When people with disabilities can’t access your site, that’s essentially what you’re doing.
Keep in mind that accessible content and design isn’t just about serving a minority of website visitors. Website accessibility checks and guidelines can help all shoppers navigate your site with ease, even if they’re fully able.
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7 Tips for Creating Accessible Web Content
Creating accessible content can feel like a huge undertaking for your agency. There are hundreds of disabilities that people can have, so how do you cater to them all?
The answer is, you don’t necessarily have to. Many design and content choices that boost accessibility are simply great rules of thumb for making more intuitive websites — regardless of whether visitors have disabilities or not.
You can choose to get a little more advanced with accessible video players like Able Player and similar tools and widgets. But when you’re first getting started with accessibility, you can focus on simple steps that anyone on your team can take. Here are four web content accessibility guidelines that you can use when building a website.
1. Use Clear, Easy-To-Read Font
Not all fonts are equally easy to read. On digital screens, serif fonts — those with decorative “feet” at the end of each letter — usually aren’t as clean as sans serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica. And while script fonts are beautiful and artistic, their letters are often filled with flourishes. This can make individual letters harder to distinguish for people with dyslexia, vision impairments, and other disabilities.
If you do choose a serif or script font for branding purposes, opt for one with fewer flourishes and more consistency. Times New Roman is a good example of an easily readable serif font.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility further suggests typing content using a font size above 14 points, which can increase legibility.
2. Include Alt Text With Images
Alternative text (alt text) is a brief description of what’s happening in an image. When people with disabilities use screen readers, your alt text allows them to get the context they need. Alt text essentially makes images readable. This way, you can send a complete message to every website visitor.
Alt text also appears when an image on your site doesn’t load. Whether or not your users have disabilities, this can create a better user experience during technical difficulties. And when your alt text includes keywords, it can actually improve your search engine optimization (SEO), so you rank higher on search.
In addition to using alt text, consider creating transcripts or closed captioning for videos on your site.
3. Be Mindful of Colors and Contrast
Creating accessible content also means paying attention to the colors you choose. The contrast between your text color and background colors should be fairly high — think black and white. High contrast makes text easy to read for anyone who visits your site.
You can perform a quick website accessibility check for your color choices by using WebAIM’s Contrast Checker. This tool will provide a contrast ratio (which ideally should be 7:1 or greater) for the colors you enter and indicate if it passes web content accessibility guidelines.
Additionally, consider the impact of your colors on the user experience for people with color blindness. About 1 in 12 men (and 1 in 200 women) are color blind, with most struggling to see reds and greens.
4. Break Up Content With Headers
Large paragraphs can be difficult for anyone to digest — especially people with disabilities. Using headings to break up your text is key to making your content highly understandable for the majority of your audience.
Breaking up your paragraphs isn’t just an effective content writing practice. It’s also essential for helping people who use screen readers navigate your website. Screen reader users can use your headings to find the content they’re looking for — and skip over the content that’s not relevant — which allows for an improved user experience.
5. Perform Website Accessibility Checks
A simple task that you can add to your to-do list is running your website through an online accessibility checker. Tools you can use include WebAccessibility.com and the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. These smart tools will analyze the URL you enter to determine your level of compliance with accessibility guidelines.
Performing this website accessibility check can be a great starting point that tells you what and how much you need to improve.
6. Consider Accessibility in the Design Feedback Process
The design feedback process is the perfect place to consider the accessibility of your web design. Use this time to actively look for adherence to your guidelines. As you test each webpage, consider the experience from the perspective of people with disabilities. Encourage clients to do the same during the client design feedback process.
When your team members or your clients notice accessibility issues with your design, use a feedback tool like SimpleStage to request changes. You can start a conversation thread on the part of the web design you’re referencing and mark up your design as needed.
7. Get Feedback From Diverse End Users
No matter how committed your team and your clients are to creating accessible content, not all of you have first-hand perspectives on disabilities. You might miss clear hindrances to accessibility. Getting input from people with diverse disabilities can help you make your site as accessible as possible.
Commit To Creating Accessible Content
Accessible content and design can help your clients reach more of their ideal customers, while improving the user experience for all. Just by following simple accessibility guidelines — including those that don’t require technical knowledge at all — you can create better, more inclusive sites. You can further serve people with disabilities by performing website accessibility checks and considering accessibility in your feedback processes, too.