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A Guide to Accessibility Web Design

Like many other countries, the UK has rules and regulations around how we treat people with accessibility issues. We create ramps into buildings, we widen doorways, and provide lifts, and we include Braille text on packaging. The internet is no different. You need to make your online presence – including your website – accessible to everyone, whether they have impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive issues, learning disabilities, deafness, or impaired hearing.

In the UK at least 1 in 5 people struggle in one way or another with a permanent disability, and many more suffer from temporary problems. As a business with a website it’s your job to make sure your entire audience, whatever their capabilities, can access the information and insight it contains.

If you’re busy researching accessibility web design, we can help. As a respected and highly experienced B2B website design agency, we’ve got accessibility nailed. Read on to find out all about website accessibility and how to achieve it.

What is Web Accessibility?

Did you know that 8% of men in the UK are colour blind to one degree or other? The condition means one in eight of your potential male customers may have difficulties with the colour contrast on your website. Poor vision can also mean it’s hard to see small print and images. If you’re actually blind, you won’t be able to ‘see’ the internet - but you can hear it using special software. If you have trouble hearing the sound on videos, you can read a transcript if the site owner has provided one. People with motor difficulties might need a special mouse, an on-screen keyboard, or speech recognition software.

Whether you’re building a new site or updating an existing one, the law says you need to bear people with accessibility problems in mind from start to finish. Your site needs to be just as accessible via a mobile as it is on a desktop machine. Your .pdfs and other uploaded documents need to be accessible to screen readers. You need to provide proper descriptions of images. The contrast of the colours you use must be good enough so everyone can see what’s what.

So far, so good. But the thing is, accessibility isn’t just about people with disabilities. Get it right and the site you develop will work better for everyone. Fully accessible websites tend to be more enjoyable for every user, so it’s sad to see that most UK public sector websites just don’t meet the grade. The government’s own accessibility guidelines reveal a worrying 40% of local council websites alone fail basic accessibility testing, and that’s likely to be the tip of the iceberg. You don’t want to be one of them. 

Why Designing for Accessibility is Important

You can’t argue with the law of the land. Under UK law every website operator is required to make their sites accessible. Luckily the  web content accessibility guidelines (WGAG) are your best friend. They’ve been developed via the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organisations across the globe, aiming to deliver a single shared standard for web content accessibility to meet the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments. The Equality Act (2010) is another handy piece of reference material, an Act of Parliament you have to abide by to stay legal.

Compliance with legislation is a primary reason for accessibility. But there are many more reasons why you should make sure your website is fully accessible, in every way, to everyone:

  • Full accessibility means all your visitors, including those with varying abilities, have a good user experience – which means you’ll convert better, sell more, and acquire more customers
  • Every visitor you attract can access the information and resources you’ve provided, which helps grow customer loyalty and encourage return visits
  • Every marketing penny you spend has a better impact simply because you reach more people who can access your site, maximising your potential target audience
  • As we’ve mentioned, overall website usability is improved for every visitor when your site is properly accessible
  • You create a very positive public image, which enhances your brand and reputation
  • Accessible web design can improve your SEO because Google bots behave in the same way as blind site visitors. When you please Google your search visibility results should improve

Last but not least, when you consider accessibility early in the website design process you save money and time – because you don’t have to go back and fix it later.

How to Make Your Website Accessible

Now you know what accessibility means in website terms and why it’s vital to think accessibility from the start. Next, let’s look at how to make your website accessible.

It’s good to know there are some excellent free online tools to help you get where you want to be quickly and smoothly, by testing and assessing your site’s accessibility status. They examine sites according to their compliance with various levels of the WCAG. Bear in mind the next iteration of WCAG, V 2.2, is set to be completed and released by June 2022.

To be truly accessible, sites must comply with the WCAG principles. These are often called POUR, a handy acronym for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust.

Perceivable

Everyone can see the information being presented. It can’t be invisible to all of someone’s senses. This generally means providing a text alternative, alternatives for time-based media, alternative formats or making it easier for people to see or hear content by making the foreground and background easy to distinguish  

Operable

Users need enough time to read and use the content, and all the functionality should be available via the keyboard. You should never design content in a way that could give people seizures, and navigation should always be super-simple and clear

Understandable

Content has to be readable and understandable, and the design and pages need to work in the ways people are used to. This is often simply a matter of great design. It’s also good to give people ways to avoid and correct any mistakes they might make when using the site

Robust

The site must be compatible with current and future tech, and needs to be arranged in a HMTL, CSS, Javascript order.  There’s a choice of compliance levels: A, AA and AAA. The latter is difficult to achieve, level A is rather simplistic, and AA seems to be the choice most developers make

Here are our top tips for making a website accessible:

  • Don’t over complicate the experience for your users. Make sure that content is clear, uncluttered and just as easy to access for your users with accessibility needs as those who don’t

  • Include descriptive ALT text with all of the site’s informational imagery and non-text content.

  • DON’T add labels and unnecessary descriptions to imagery or non-text content that is meant purely for decorative purposes

  • Make sure every aspect of the site is readable by screen reader and ensure the whole site can be navigated easily

  • Specify the language

  • Identify User Interface components used across the web consistently on each page

  • Allow the text to be enlarged without resorting to assistive technology like a screen magnifier

  • Use actual text, not images of text

  • Check every scrap of information can be accessed using the keyboard alone in a logical and sensible order

  • Use semantic markup, including proper page structuring and heading tags

  • Know that tables need additional markup for them to be readable by screen readers

  • If you have any instructions on your site they can’t rely on sound, shape, size or physical location for clarity

  • Make every operation simple, needing only one touch or click

  • Make sure audio can be paused and stopped, and that the volume can be changed up or down

  • Always use descriptive link texts to tell people where the links point to. Just saying ‘click here’ and ‘learn more’ doesn’t give people the context they need

  • If something moves, shakes or tilts, add more than the usual motion input – include something like a button as well

  • Ensure all your form fields are labelled correctly so people know what to type into each box

  • Don’t rely on colour to convey meaning, or use colour alone to make critical information understandable

  • Make sure the colour contrast is strong enough to be picked up by everyone

  • Always include text with multimedia content so people can access it using their screen reader – captions for audio, audio descriptions for pre-recorded video and so on

  • Include a skip navigation link to let people using assistive technologies to skip repetitive elements

  • Never use flashing or blinking content that could lead to a seizure

  • Understand how content can be presented in different ways without losing information or structure, for example not restricting a page view to portrait or landscape, and programmatically determining the right reading sequence

This isn’t an exhaustive list. There’s lots more detail. And that’s why we recommend you contact an experienced web design agency with accessibility expertise – like us. We’ll make sure every accessibility requirement is ticked, giving your site the widest possible audience along with top class functionality that delights everyone, whatever their abilities.

Vital ways to open your business to everyone

The importance of website accessibility is clear. It helps your site function better in a variety of useful ways. It helps you attract and keep more visitors, please more people, and broaden your audience. It boosts your brand and it pleases Google’s algorithm. If you’d like to know even more about every aspect of B2B website development from Intuitiv, get in touch with us for an informal discussion.

Or give us a call on 01844 888 777
or contact us.


Intuitiv Digital

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