On The Hill: Radar Hill Blog

Blank screen on desktop, tablet, and mobile to represent lack of accessibility

Web Accessibility: Designing for Inclusivity and Compliance

Est. reading time 4 minutes

Designing a website is all about providing the best user experience for its visitors, but that can often assume a universal experience that ignores the different accessibility challenges and issues many people face.

For web designers and businesses, providing the best experience possible means providing solutions for a wide range of accessibility barriers. Here’s why that should matter to you, and what an accessible website means in practice.

What Is Accessibility

While accessibility may be easy to sum up, understanding what underpins the idea of it does require a deeper dive.

Using the standardized principles outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), there are four key principles all websites should be seeking to achieve:

  1. Perceivability: Making sure that information and interactive elements are displayed in a way that can be perceived by all users, by offering text for images and ensuring audio content is easy to both see and hear.
  2. Operable: The website itself can be navigated by all users, including those with disabilities, emphasizing keyboard access, content warning for flashing images, and ensuring there are no time-based pressures or responses.
  3. Understandable: While there is invariably a need for technical jargon or descriptive language in any website, making sure that any key information or instructions is relayed as simply as possible is important.
  4. Robust: This means that websites are developed so that they can be interpreted by a range of users, including those using assistive devices or technologies, ensuring that all websites are compatible across multiple platforms and devices.

An Online World

The Internet is more accessible than ever, with more ways and means for people to get online. However, the evolution of websites themselves to accommodate the needs of a wide range of people can be a lot slower. This can be a frustrating and alienating experience for some people, and makes it vitally important for businesses and those who build their websites to prioritize accessibility in their design choices, ensuring that there are no barriers when it comes to using the Internet.

In order to best achieve this, it’s important to understand some of the potential accessibility challenges most websites will have to overcome:

  • Vision Problems: Making sure your website is easily scanned and read for those who use screen readers is vitally important to making sure your website is accessible, but you should also be considering how colour blindness would affect the readability and usability of your website.
  • Navigation Problems: It’s something many take for granted, but not everyone is able to physically use a mouse or track board, and will instead rely on other devices or keyboard navigation. Making sure your website navigation is accessible for a wide range of users with clear structures, page headings, and detailed anchor text are all important design choices that can help with this.

Legal Compliance

Web accessibility isn’t just an important matter of principle, and a way to make sure you’re communicating and reaching as many people as possible - there are also compliance regulations and laws you may have to be aware of. At a national level, there’s the Accessible Canada Act, which dictates that government agencies and federally regulated private sector companies such as banks and broadcasting companies must ensure their website is in line with WCAG guidelines.

Know What to Look For

Understanding the importance of accessibility is one thing, but knowing what an accessible website actually looks like, and what some of the key elements of it are, can be difficult if you haven’t run into any of the issues yourself.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most common elements that web developers and designers will rely on to make a website more accessible for all users:

  • Make sure that any images your site uses are accompanied by clear and easy to understand alt text so that they can be read by assistive technologies such as screen and braille readers. Additionally, any videos or multimedia should come with both subtitles and audio description.
  • Ensure that there is the option for users to enlarge fonts, as small text can be difficult to read for some, and that a legible and clear font choice has been used.
  • Check the contrast between background and foreground images, as there are a number of visual impairments that affect low colour contrast sensitivity. When in doubt, opt for dark text on a light background.
  • Interactive elements and menu navigation is possible via keyboard navigation.

These are only some of the more basic elements when it comes to ensuring a website is truly accessible, there is a lot more that needs to happen on the back end and in the building and design of the site itself. Checking that a site is accessible is a slightly more complex but easily achievable task, as we’re about to outline.

Test It Yourself

Determining how accessible your current website is can feel like guesswork, which is why it’s important to know some of the small steps you can take to try and put yourself in the shoes of a potential user:

  • Because screen readers and text to voice are widespread accessibility tools, you can easily find one and use it to listen to your site to hear how it would be experienced by a user, and this will help you understand where the flaws might be and how you can improve them. Screen readers can be used simply by adding one as an extension to your Chrome or Firefox browser.
  • Many toolbar browser extensions can be very useful, with browsers such as Firefox and Opera offering their own accessibility evaluation toolbars.
  • Alternatively, there are web-based accessibility tools available that can evaluate a wide range of structural components.

When it comes to ensuring your website is accessible and easy to use for all of your customers, you can’t rely on a template or a rushed job, you need website design from skilled professionals who will pay attention to all the details that matter. We’re here to provide you with exactly that, and tailor it to make sure it’s the right build for your business. To find out more contact us today.