What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word accessible? I think about my ability to gain entry to a place, but that’s some pretty selfish thinking. Accessible really means that something is available for everyone to gain entry. So when it comes to the internet and websites, accessibility doesn’t just refer to the usability of a website or its flashy and intuitive user experience design. No; an accessible website is available to all internet users no matter if they’re deaf, blind, hard of hearing, or visually-impaired. What you have to decide is whether or not your website needs to be accessible.
How to decide if your website needs to be accessible
Well, that’s the quick answer! We’re all going to get old, and if you’re dependent on the internet, you might feel a little bitter as a senior squinting at really small font that doesn’t resize when you use browser zoom.
Making a website accessible doesn’t have to mean changing the interface, but it often does. If your company logo is red text over a green background, it might be hard to come up with a solution for users who can’t distinguish those two colors. But we should all strive to make a website accessible for everyone, since it’s the right thing to do. Not only that— it’s good for business.
How to tell if your website is not accessible
There are a lot of reasons why your website might not be accessible to all. Here are just a few:
- Keyboard-only users can’t navigate through your website
- The contrast ratio between text and background is too faint for the visually-impaired
- There are no tooltips to help users understand the functions on your website
- Focus indicators aren’t used to show where users are on the site or in what form field they are
- The text is too small and isn’t coded in relative units, so it can’t be manually resized
- The code in your website doesn’t use proper markup so that when styles are turned off the content is still visible
- Images don’t carry any meta information so that when users turn images off, they can’t see the description of what would otherwise be there
- Voice recognition software doesn’t help the blind navigate your website
Among many others, these are the most common ways in which your website might not work for everyone.
Making your website accessible
You can see for yourself some of these problems that occur on your website with a quick glance over. It’s not hard to up the contrast, but it’s a little more complicated if you want to make the website fully keyboard-accessible. A lot of CMS-built sites come with themes that are already semi-accessible. For instance, to test out if keyboard-only users can use your website, just click tab several times to see the focus indicator (the box with a dotted line border) move over clickable elements on the page. Press enter to activate the links and navigate around. If it works, great!
If it doesn’t work, and you want to make your website accessible, you’ll need to hire an experienced developer who knows how to diagnose the accessibility issues and make the necessary changes to open your website to everyone. If you have a company with a buyer persona over the age of 60, then your website should at least be accessible to the visually-impaired. Otherwise, you risk alienating potential clients. I leave the ball in your court.