Improving Your Website’s Accessibility

PDF Accessibility
April 14, 2015
Challenges to Live Captioning
April 28, 2015

When your business is trying to gain momentum, most usually turn to the benefits of a website; information at the fingertips of everyone. Although, are you sure that everyone will be able to access what you’re putting on the web? There is a possibility that your site isn’t as accessible as you would like to think. There are a few simple ways that you can increase your site’s accessibility and the amount of traffic it receives from several types of people.

It’s one thing to have a text-heavy site, but chances are you’re utilizing some imagery to accent your site. One step you can take to increase accessibility is to label everything on the site. You can add alternative texts to describe the function of the item, and within HTML, you can add captions to the images to describe what some users may not be able to see. You can check how your site looks without photos to get a slight idea of how someone without vision would be able to understand your site’s content.

Graphics aren’t the only thing that should be labeled on your site. Your page probably has a “structure.” You may not have even thought about it. Somehow, users know that the links at the top are part of the navigation bar, the text down the left is headlines and “What’s New” items, and the paragraphs on the right are part of another block of text. How do they know this? You’ve probably used different fonts for the parts of the page, perhaps made the navigation bar a brighter color than the press release, and may have placed a shaded box around the “What’s New” items to set them off. You probably spent a lot of time deciding what colors to use and how to get ideas across.

These sections of your page need to be labeled explicitly so that users who can access only parts of it at a time will know when they’ve been moved from one to another.

If a graphic is a link, it is absolutely necessary for that link to be meaningfully labeled. But, text links must make sense, too. Many visitors to your site will only read the links, skipping over explanatory text. Others may not be able to see the relationship between the explanation and the link – particularly if they are using some type of screen reader and tabbing from link to link. Meaning, a link that only reads “click here” is a poor descriptor to the user. So, in order to make a better experience, a link that reads, “For the latest version of our software, click here.” is much better.

If your website is nonfunctioning without Java, Javascript, and other non-HTML elements, you may need to think about what happens when a user does not access these parts of your site. This even includes users of out-dated web browsers; older meaning six months to a year old. Users of assisted technology like screen-reading software cannot update their browsers as often as we would like because the assistive technology does not yet support the new version. As a result, even the most web-savvy and cutting-edge users will not be able to access some of the exciting features your site is utilizing. The simple solution here is to avoid the use of non-text elements. Although, that may be a limitation you just cannot live with. If that’s the case, provide an alternative to any non-text content you have.

Providing that all of the aforementioned elements are addressed, you can be assured that you’re doing everything you can to bring your web content to everyone who wants to view it. Several steps may seem tedious, but the fact is, it really isn’t much more work than you’re already putting into the site to make it functional and flashy. Consider the viewers when building your site and try to look through the point of view of those who cannot see it.