Designing an Accessible Website

The internet has transformed the level of access to information for countless people with disabilities. To continue providing access to all, we must ensure that our websites are accessible with easy usability for people of varying visual, physical, and auditory abilities. 
 
Rather than rely on others or have to deal with braille versions of printed texts, blind or partially sighted people can now use screen readers to read electronic text out loud. Through a web browser with some simple software attached, a whole world of information becomes accessible. 
 
Similarly, people with motor disabilities can turn to the internet with assistive keyboards or eye-tracking software to access websites and programs.
 
However, it is all too easy to put barriers in the way of this access:
  • using images that are part of the message without text alternatives
  • using video that is not captioned for the hard of hearing
  • creating pages that can only be navigated using mouse clicks
  • creating data tables without headings
  • creating links that are meaningless out of context

Accessible Images 

For your users with visual impairments, it is important to write alt-text for your images. This explains what is shown within the image, so that they get an accurate description of the page when using a screen reader. 

It is also a good idea to include captions beneath the image to give a better idea of the image context.

Relevant Anchor Text 

Instead of linking to other websites, pages or documents with anchor text that says ‘click here’ or ‘read more’, you should ensure that the text directly relates to the hyperlink. 

This is because screen readers often scan the content of a page through the list of links given. You should also avoid using the url as the anchor text as screen readers will read this out by the letter, which as you can imagine, is hard to follow. 

Multimedia Captions 

Videos and podcasts can be very engaging for your website users, but that won’t be the case for everyone if you don’t include captions or transcripts. 

Videos should have closed captions that can be turned on for the deaf and those with hearing impairments. It's also a good idea to have translated captions if you have an international audience. 

To make your podcasts accessible you can include a written transcript, which describes the audio, within the description. Alternatively offer a download link, so that disabled users can use a media player of their choice. 

Breaking down barriers

Making sites accessible doesn't mean not being creative – and shouldn't mean not making the site visually appealing for those who can appreciate it. It is about checking things behind the scenes and it's about using industry best-practice and complying with standards.

For more information on how to make your website accessible, the W3C provides information on the Web Accessibility Initiative.

How we can help

As a website development agency, we always maintain an awareness of these issues and will bring them to the attention of our clients when necessary. 

We have worked with organisations such as RNIB and Dyslexia Action to produce accessible websites and integrated databases, so we have a clear understanding of what it takes to make a website accessible by everyone.

If your organisation needs help designing an accessible website, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0117 909 6967 or by filling in our online contact form.
 

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