3 Steps to Creating a Digitally Accessible Platform
How often do you stop to think about how a person with disabilities would be able to interact with your website? Would someone with color blindness be able to read text? Would a web user dependent on a screen reader be able to complete a purchase or form?
So if you haven’t yet considered how accessible your site is, start by checking for some of the most common issues that can prevent users with disabilities from fully experiencing your digital content.
Just as businesses are required to make their physical premises navigable for people with disabilities, websites and other digital content must also be adapted for accessibility. Digital accessibility is important from a legal standpoint – regulated by Section 508 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – and from a customer-relations and business perspective as well.
Common Errors that Impact Web Accessibility
Errors That Limit Accessibility with Keyboards, Screen Readers and Other Assistive Devices
An important note to keep in mind: many people with disabilities rely on keyboards and assistive devices such as screen readers and joysticks to navigate the web. A big part of facilitating digital accessibility is ensuring your site is accessible through these devices.
This means websites must be structured to avoid navigation errors. Keyboard users must be able to navigate through a site using the tab key. Sites must be coded with digital landmarks – special labels in the site code – that allow a screen reader to interact with a page’s navigation and menus.
WCAG Compliance Errors
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a set of standards from the Worldwide Web Consortium (WC3), are considered the gold standard for digital accessibility. (Laws and regulations related to digital accessibility are based on WCAG, so complying with them is important from a legal standpoint as well.)
Earlier in 2019, the nonprofit organization WebAIM evaluated the homepages of 1,000,000 websites to uncover accessibility violations. Interestingly, the study found that 97.8% of homepages had detectable WCAG failures.
Most errors fell into these major categories:
- Low contrast text
- Missing alternative text for images
- Empty links (links without text; fails to give screen readers appropriate context)
- Missing form input labels
- Missing document language (the code fails to identify the main language of the document; impacts screen readers)
- Empty buttons (buttons without text)
How to Guard Against Common Accessibility Errors
Here are some steps that can help head off common digital accessibility issues.
Make digital accessibility a priority from the outset. If you’re planning a new or re-designed website, it’s far easier to build in digital accessibility rather than retrofitting after the fact. Consult the WCAG guidelines, and check out tips on getting started with digital accessibility from WC3.
Conduct manual checks on a regular basis. Get on your website and use your keyboard to tab through major user flows. Check for logical navigation and site structure. Keep an eye out for newly added features that might not align with digital accessibility guidelines. For example, websites commonly add social media icons as buttons… but have they been coded with alternative text?
Consult with an accessibility expert. Conducting a self-assessment and then trouble-shooting some of the major issues that you find is a great start. But maintaining ongoing digital accessibility is a time-intensive effort that requires extensive knowledge of laws, regulations and standards. A digital accessibility firm can save you time, headaches, and cost in the long run.
Use an automated accessibility checker. While manual testing is important, it’s subject to human error. And digital content, by nature, is constantly changing, with frequent updates and new additions that could pose digital accessibility errors that go undetected. You also need to account for dynamic content that builds pages on the fly, such as search results. Using an automated tool helps create a robust approach to digital accessibility.
The Allyable platform makes it easy to avoid common digital accessibility downfalls because it detects issues and then either automatically corrects them or recommends fixes via an easy-to-use dashboard, depending on the type of error. Use our free Accessibility Checker to assess where your digital accessibility stands today. Learn more at https://newdev.allyable.com/.