Web accessibility guidelines were established to ensure that sites are accessible to everyone. Web pages should be designed in a way that makes them usable for all site visitors, regardless of disabilities or impairments.
Videos and images, for example, are often embedded into web pages so that the content readily displays for site visitors. However, what about users who are deaf or hard of hearing? How can you make sure videos and images are still available for these groups? How can you ensure that navigation is easy for those who are unable to use a mouse?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) address website usability. Under the current version of the guidelines (WCAG 2.0), web content must be: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Devices from desktop computers to mobile phones must comply with the guidelines, which use A, AA, and AAA as a grading scale. At the very least, websites should conform to the guidelines at the A level.
For a web page to be perceivable, a user’s senses must be able to comprehend all of the page’s content. This can be especially difficult for individuals with visual or hearing impairments.
Visual disabilities include color blindness and low vision, and users with visual impairments often use a screen reader for assistance. Screen readers cannot read non-text elements and rely on alternative text. To be sure a web page is accessible for users with visual disabilities:
- Ensure all images and links have alternative text that clearly describes the image or links. For links, avoid using “click here.” Instead, consider using call to action buttons such as “sign up” or “add to cart.”
- Include periods in between all letters in acronyms. This prevents screen readers from reading “cia” instead of C.I.A.
- Use text style beyond just color to set apart different aspects of a page. Consider using formatting such as bold or italicized font as well.
- Make the contrast high enough that color blind users can view all elements. If you work in Sketch, Stark is a great tool to use to test against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards.
- Anticipate page resizing when designing your site.
Hearing disabilities include users who are deaf or hard of hearing. Multimedia, such as videos, often make web pages more engaging for users, but also make browsing the internet difficult for people with hearing disabilities. To avoid this problem:
- Accompany all videos with subtitles, transcripts, or closed captioning. Additionally, make sure all text is easy to read and font color and size can be adjusted.
- Ensure media players allow for the user to adjust the volume.
- Avoid any interaction that can only be done by speaking.
Making a page operable affects navigation, forms, and controls. For users with physical disabilities, it’s often difficult or impossible to use a mouse. Therefore, users must rely on other methods for navigation, such as a keyboard. Some things to keep in mind to ensure your site is operable are:
- Ensure a user can navigate your site with a keyboard and without a mouse.
- Make page design and navigation intuitive and easy to follow.
- Avoid content that could cause over stimulation.
- Increase the clickable range for items.
- Don’t use elements that require time limits for completing tasks or forms.
Cognitive disabilities hinder users from being able to focus on a lot of information at one time. To avoid discrimination against users with cognitive disabilities, a site must be easily understandable. To ensure your site is understandable:
- Make the readability level lower so it’s easier to understand. Use the Hemingway App if you need assistance.
- Break content down into simple parts using headings and spacing.
- Avoid elements that have a timer and require the audience to read content in a set amount of time.
- Accompany automatic elements like carousels with visual controls.
- Implement the tools needed to help users avoid mistakes. For example, do not allow incomplete forms to be submitted.
In order to create a web page that is robust, there is only one guideline that must be met. The site must be compatible with current and future agents. Most importantly, the site must be able to be interpreted by assistive technology.
By following these guidelines, you ensure that all users can find value when they visit your site and that they can successfully complete their goals.