When we used to talk about accessibility, we only thought about physical buildings. But times have changed. Providing online services, such as account access and payment processing, is now a commonplace practice that bridges the gap between businesses and consumers. However, businesses that don’t adhere to the website accessibility guidelines mentioned in the American Disability Act of 1990 are at risk of legal charges of up to $150,000.
Making your website accessible to all will not only protect your business against possible legal consequences, but it can also improve your online reputation.
Here are the six most important components of an ADA-compliant website:
1. Inclusive Design
Accessibility is about making your website available to everyone. To achieve this, you should pay attention to inclusive design.
Inclusive design means designing for diversity. Remember that your site visitors are varied. Some may be suffering from permanent disabilities, including blindness, hearing impairment, or some chronic disease that restricts their mobility. Meanwhile, other people can be temporarily impaired. For example, a person who just went through a major surgical operation may not be able to move his hands properly until recovered. When designing a website, keep in mind the different kinds of people who will be accessing it so that it can be made accessible to those in unique situations.
2. Video and Audio Files
Video and audio files are common on websites. Through these media, you can easily convey your message and promote your brand. Unfortunately, not everyone can access them with ease. People with visual impairment, for example, will not be able to view videos, photos, or other graphical components of your site. Meanwhile, deaf people might feel discouraged to use your site if you have a lot of audio content.
The solution is to provide your audience with an alternative method to access these files if they cannot hear the audio or see videos. You can make the experience better for these people by adding alternate tags to your images, subtitles on your videos, and transcripts for your audio files.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 list several recommendations to make your site content user-friendly.
The first is to provide text alternatives to non-text content. This way, users can change the content into a format that suits their needs, such as speech, braille, symbols, and even simple language.
Second, provide alternatives for time-based media. This means publishing pre-recorded media (video and audio files) and using captions.
The third is to enable users to view their content in different forms or layouts without losing information or structure. Many disabled people use mobile devices to access the web. Thus, you have to make sure that your site is mobile-friendly.
Lastly, you should make it easy for users to view or hear your content by separating the foreground from the background. This can be done by making highly contrasting color combinations and adding a ‘pause’ button or disabling auto-play functions on videos.
There are hundreds of font styles available today. In terms of accessibility, there are several guidelines to keep in mind when choosing fonts for your website. One is to choose a common font and limit the number of font styles for your website. Among the widely used fonts for accessibility are sans-serifs like Arial, Calibri, and Century Gothic, serif fonts like Times New Roman and Georgia, and slab serifs like Rockwell and Avro.
As to the size, use at least 20px for your content. Enable resizing by defining font sizes by relative value.
Another accessibility must-have is ensuring that your text can be zoomed in to 200% without assistive technology or loss of website functionality.
5. Accessibility Guide
Once you’ve made the major components of your site accessible, create a separate page outlining how people with disabilities can use or navigate your site with ease. Your accessibility guide should include links or tools that can help them access the information they need. Include some techniques such as text-to-speech option, voice recognition, browser settings, and many more.
An accessible layout is important for accessible websites. Your site should be designed in such a way that people with disabilities can easily and confidently locate and identify the information they need on their own. This includes adding navigation menus, links, clear headings for content, orientation cues, and sections. You should also add labels and short instructions on fields.
Additionally, provide more than one method of website navigation such as a site search or a site map.
Creating an ADA-compliant website isn’t too difficult. If you pay attention to the six elements mentioned in this article, your website will be well on its way to being accessible to everyone, especially to people with disabilities.