Building a beautiful website is a proud moment for any small business. Making it accessible means that the four million Australians who have disabilities, as well as the countless others using different technology to read and interact with web content, get to enjoy it as much as everyone else, writes Elyse Wurm.
How to be accessible
The Australian government developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which we’ve implemented on a number of the websites we’ve designed at Mo Works Creative Agency. We’ve plucked out a few of the most important points to give you an idea of what’s expected.
1. Use high-contrasting colours
Text and background colours need to contrast so people who are colour blind or visually impaired can differentiate between the two. Also, try to avoid using colour as the only way to communicate information or indicate that an action needs to be taken.
2. Make link text easy to understand
Links need to clearly describe where they will take the user, whether it be to a new webpage or new document, so people who are visually impaired or using screen readers are prepared for the change.
3. Ensure the website can be navigated with a keyboard
Page content should be systematically assembled so users who aren’t using a mouse are able to navigate using only the tab key.
4. Allow users to resize the text and page width
Text and page size should be able to increase on demand so people with visual impairments or age-related impairments can easily read them.
5. Provide text alternatives
Non-text content, such as images and videos, need to have text embedded (alt-text) that describes the content for people using screen readers or devices that can’t load multimedia.
6. Ensure content is adaptable
Pages should present content in a number of different ways, including simpler layouts, without sacrificing information or structure.
7. Make headings meaningful
Headings, sub-headings and table text must be assigned appropriate levels and written in correct markup so screen readers and other devices can make sense of the information.
8. Be consistent in presentation and navigation
Links, headings and menus must remain consistent to act as a point of reference and guide people through the website in a formulaic way.
9. Avoid seizure-inducing content
Flashing visual content that lasts for more than three seconds should be removed to eliminate the risk of seizures.
10. Allow pausing in video content
Automatically moving content, including scrolling and blinking content, should be able to be stopped, paused or hidden to prevent disruptions and enable people to focus attention on the more important information on the page.
Why it’s important
Just as ramps and disabled parking spots are used to cater to people with different needs when they’re out and about, website accessibility reduces the time and energy it takes for people with different needs to complete tasks online. But there are also benefits for you as a business owner, including:
• Extending the reach of your website by breaking down barriers to entry
• Maximising traffic and conversions by simplifying navigation
• Improving your SEO by making it easier for search engines to make sense of your content
• Reducing risk of legal action for discrimination by providing equal access to all web users
Testing your website
By now you probably have a pretty good idea about the accessibility of your website, but you can check by running your website through a Website Accessibility Evaluation Tool. This will mark the areas that need improvement, with labels to specify what the problem is.
Everyone’s abilities and access to technology are different, and websites can cater to these differences without skimping on style or design.
Elyse Wurm is a copywriter and social media coordinator at Mo Works, a full-stack creative agency specialising in communication strategy and digital design and development.