Website Accessibility Best Practices for Web Design and Development

When websites are not accessible to people with disabilities, they create a negative user experience. Consider people with visual impairments who may be unable to read text or navigate a website using a mouse.

Websites without accessibility prevent people from accessing information and performing other essential tasks.
However, as more website owners become aware of website accessibility through SEO or legal compliance, it has become an important factor for many businesses. In this post, we'll discuss website accessibility and provide some best practices for designing and developing websites that consider all people.

What is Website Accessibility

Website accessibility refers to the design and development of websites that can be accessed and used by everyone, including people with disabilities. These websites consider the user experience of the visually impaired, hard of hearing, and physically disabled.

Why Website Accessibility is Important

According to WebAIM, 96.3% of home pages failed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2 (WCAG 2). This means that most websites are not fully accessible to people with disabilities. There are several reasons why website accessibility is important and must be prioritized. 

Access to Information is a Human Right

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes access to information and communication technologies, including the internet, as a fundamental human right. Ensuring website accessibility is one way to help fulfill this right and promote greater inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities.

Do Websites Need to be ADA Compliant?

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in various aspects of public life. While the ADA does not explicitly mention websites, the Department of Justice has taken the position that websites are covered by the ADA, and that websites must be accessible to people with disabilities.

While compliance with the ADA is not mandatory for all websites, it is a good idea for website owners to strive for ADA compliance to promote accessibility.

Easily Accessible Websites Improve User Experience

Website accessibility can improve the user experience for all users. Designing websites that are easy to navigate and use can help reduce frustration and improve engagement. 

Website Accessibility Can Benefit Your SEO Efforts

While website accessibility itself is not a direct ranking factor when it comes to search, it can improve the user's on-page experience. It's also worth mentioning that there are some elements of website accessibility that are confirmed ranking factors. Website accessibility ranking factors include the use of anchor text and structured headings. In addition, there is also much speculation that Alt Text is another SEO signal. However, this is unconfirmed.

How to Test Website Accessibility

Now that you know about website accessibility and its importance let's see if your website passes the accessibility test. There are a few ways you can analyze your site for free. 

  1. WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool: This free online tool checks your website for accessibility issues and provides feedback on how to fix them. 
  2. Accessibility Checker: This free online tool grades your website for accessibility and provides a report with recommendations.

Website Accessibility Best Practices for Web Design

Provide Alternative Text (Alt Text) for Images

Alternative text, also known as alt text, is a textual description of an image. It helps users who are blind or visually impaired to understand the content of an image. It is also beneficial for SEO, as search engines use alt text to understand the content of an image. When adding alt text, make sure it is descriptive and concise.

Use Descriptive Link Text

Link text, or anchor text, should be descriptive and indicate the linked page's content. Descriptive links help users understand where the link leads them and what they can expect to find on the linked page. It also helps search engines understand the linked page's content. Try to avoid general non-descriptive button CTA's that read "learn more" or "click here." These types of anchor text don't provide the user any information about what they will find on the next page. 

Use Clear and Easy-to-Read Fonts

Using clear and easy-to-read fonts is essential for accessibility. Make sure that your font size is not too small and that there is enough contrast between the text and the background. 

Use High Contrast Color Ratios for Text Over Colored Backgrounds

High contrast between text and background is critical for users with low vision or color blindness. Ensure the contrast ratio between text and the background is at least 4.5:1. 

Online tool to help you test the contrast ratio of your website: Coolor's Color Contrast tool

Ensure that Website Content can be Navigated with a Keyboard

Some users may not be able to use a mouse, so it is essential that your website can be navigated with a keyboard. In practice, this means that users should be able to move through the website's content using only the Tab, Enter, and Arrow keys. 

Use Header Tags for Page Structure

Using HTML header tags, such as H1, H2, and H3, helps users understand the structure of your content. Screen readers also use these tags to give users an overview of the content. Proper HTML tag structure also improves your website's SEO, as search engines use these tags to understand the structure of your content.

Avoid Using Flashing or Rapidly Blinking Content

Flashing or rapidly blinking content can trigger seizures in some users with epilepsy. Avoid using this type of content or provide users with a way to disable it. It is also essential to ensure that your website complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Use Closed Captions For Audio and Video Content

Closed captions or transcripts make audio and video content accessible to users who are deaf or hard of hearing. They also provide a way for users to understand the audio or video content without listening to it. Providing closed captions or transcripts not only improves the accessibility of your website but can also improve your website's SEO, as search engines can use the text to understand the content of the audio.

Wrap Up

With these website accessibility best practices, you can achieve a website that anyone can use. While accessibility may not be a direct ranking factor right now, as user experience becomes more important, it can happen in the future. So get started on this now. Taking the time to create an accessible website benefits all users and helps to create a more equal and accessible online world.

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