IQUANTI SPEAKS: Accessibility strategy tips to get your enterprise accessibility efforts on track
New or renovated buildings are required to be accessible to those with disabilities–but surprisingly, even in the digital-first world we live in today, accessibility isn’t always a given on the web.
Making websites navigable and welcoming to those with disabilities is more than just a branding exercise.
More than 60 million Americans (20% of the population!) live with a disability, according to Center for Disease Control data. That’s a huge pool of potential customers that you risk alienating without a clear and coherent accessibility strategy.
We spoke to our subject matter experts to get a sense of which strategies enterprises should deploy to maximize site usability and enhance the user experience for users with disabilities. Here’s how to get website accessibility right.
Key disabilities to consider while planning website accessibility efforts
‘Disability’ can have many different connotations. For the purpose of web design, certain specific kinds of disabilities should be planned for:
- Visual disabilities
The web is designed primarily for people who are fully sighted–yet many millions of people are partially or fully blind or have color blindness.
- Hearing disabilities
Does your website feature sound? If you fail to include captions or transcripts, hard-of-hearing visitors will struggle to engage with your content.
- Disabilities in motor function
Most websites are built around mouse-and-keyboard or touch-based navigation, limiting accessibility for people without a full range of motion (or coordination issues stemming from diseases like Parkinsonism).
Design for multiple interfaces
Most enterprises code a responsive (i.e., mobile-friendly) version of their site that can be navigated with screen taps. This is just the tip of the iceberg for accessibility, however. Think about how you can simplify and streamline your site for other kinds of interfaces.
There are a lot of people who can’t use trackpads or even a mouse. These users will never be able to fully navigate your site if you don’t properly demarcate your containers. You’ll also want to use the “tabindex” HTML attribute to note which page elements should be reachable with the Tab key, and in which order. This is especially important for form fields, which should be made easily accessible for all users.
Craft visuals attuned to your audience
The front end of your website matters for accessibility, too. Given the number of people with visual disabilities, making your content easy to read should be an imperative. An added benefit to enhancing readability: It’s better for older users.
Over 50 million Americans are visually impaired. All enterprise websites should be accessible to screen readers–which convert all of a site’s text to speech or braille.
Consider offering a text-only version of your site to ensure that screen readers will be able to ingest all of your content for the benefit of your visually impaired visitors.
A text-only site is also essential if your customer base skews older. The reason: text is simple to enlarge. All the user has to do for easy reading is increase their browser or operating system’s font size.
Another option for enterprise websites: offer a version with higher contrast and simpler layouts between elements: like Gmail circa 2004. In addition to building an easier-to-read design, consider altering your calls to action so they are more obvious on the page and using audio (as well as text) in any CAPTCHAs you deploy.
Sweat the details in on-page optimizations
In many cases, what’s good for search engine optimization (SEO) is also good for accessibility. Clearly defined page structure helps visitors navigate your site, while also communicating to search crawlers what your content is about.
When it comes to accessibility and SEO, an essential step is optimizing for all of the primary attribute tags on each of your pages. One underlying reason these attributes are in place is to support Americans With Disabilities Act requirements for the design of federally funded websites.
(As described in this blog post on ADA accommodations, many lawsuits have sought to address how the ADA applies to private websites–but as of 2019, there is no formal standard in place.)
Which attributes should SEOs focus on? Some elements that get overlooked or not properly populated are:
- Title tags
- H1 – H4 tags
- Image alt tags
- Image titles
- Navigational names
- Important internal links that connect relevant articles and topics
- The load sequence of on-page elements
The Final Word
Optimizing for accessibility has a number of benefits, including better SEO and an improved user experience for people with disabilities. Holistically considering how people navigate your site and where its design may be improved will produce a better user experience for your site visitors, while also ensuring compliance with any future accessibility regulations.