One in five Australians are living with a disability. This includes 357,000 individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Like most Australians, they rely on the internet to find information, goods, services and employment.
The head of design, user research and user experience at SEEK, Cameron Rogers, said that as the internet becomes an intrinsic part of our daily life, websites optimised for people with disabilities are no longer optional but a necessity.
“To remain competitive, SMEs must ensure that visually impaired Australians — potential customers or highly skilled employees — are not locked out of digital life,” Mr Rogers said.
“Now, more than ever, businesses need to be working towards inclusivity, and this means building websites that are accessible to everyone.”
Mr Rogers says that visual impairment covers a broad range of conditions, not just blindness.
“Even something as simple as using the wrong colour combination can make a website indecipherable to someone who is visually impaired.
“Many visually impaired users rely on accessibility devices such as screen readers to navigate the internet. While they allow users to access websites a little more easily, they aren’t without limitations.
“Websites that have poorly structured information, too many pop-up windows or banner ads overload the user with too much information, making the website too confusing to understand.”
Mr Rogers says that there are three things SMEs can do to optimise their website for everyone.
1. Choose function over flashiness
He says that as a business owner, it is easy to fall into the trap of building a website that looks great but is not accessible for people with disabilities.
“Just like fully sighted individuals, visually impaired users have varying levels of computer literacy and some websites can be confusing to navigate and digest content.”
Mr Rogers says that it’s best to start with the basics and keep it simple.
“Consider the layout — is your information presented clearly and in a way that makes sense, such as left to right and top to bottom? Is it easy to navigate? Be concise with your website’s copy, label your links clearly and stay away from busy pop-up windows and ads. Even visitors who aren’t visually impaired will appreciate this.”
2. Put yourself in their shoes
If you aren’t sure whether your website is as accessible as it needs to be, says Mr Rogers, download a screen reader or accessibility tool and trial it for yourself.
“Not everyone that is visually impaired is blind. Some users will have low sight or colour blindness, which is also important to consider when designing for your website.
“If text is hard to decipher for someone who isn’t visually impaired, it will likely be impossible for these users.”
3. Make the most of free tools
Mr Rogers says that some colour combinations, bespoke fonts and image backgrounds can be incredibly challenging for visually impaired users, but there are plenty of free online resources that you can use to check colour contrast.
“For instance, you can try out Accessible Colors, a free open-source tool that allows people to easily check the colour contrast of their website.”
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