Sunday, September 27, 2015

Is your website as accessible as your business?

Submitted by Carrie Wakeford, 
Project Manager Black Cap Design.

Ramps, automatic doors, accessible parking spaces – do you remember the days when these things couldn’t be taken for granted?  Now most business owners know the importance of making their stores and offices accessible to everyone.  Just in time too, with our aging population.

But wait - is your website also accessible?

Millions of people with disabilities rely on the Web.  They’ll be accessing your site using assistive devices such as screen readers.  And look out – those baby boomers will continue to have power and it won’t be long before they will be making demands for accessible websites.

Some of the coolest looking websites are not so cool for people using assistive devices - fancy fonts, newfangled layouts and funky menus can be fun and eye catching, but if you’re not careful they can create barriers for some visitors.  Ideally your website will look good AND be accessible to people with visual impairments, people who are unable to use a mouse and people who need an intuitive navigation system.

Features of an Accessible Website

Let’s start by looking at some of the main features of an accessible website.

1.     Links are spelled out
a.     Rather than saying “click here” the hyperlink is clearly labeled e.g. “Click for more information about …”. 
2.     Images are clearly labeled in the code
a.     This means having Alternate Text (Alt Text) for each image so if someone can’t see the image on your site their screen reader has something to read.  For example the text might say: “Two women at a podium smiling.” 
3.     Navigation is intuitive
a.     Menus are easy to find and logical
b.     People can move around your site without a mouse (keyboard navigation)
4.     Layout is user friendly
a.     Headings and subheadings are used
b.     Colours have high contrast
c.     Text resizing buttons are available
d.     Images are static or slow transitioning – they don’t spin or blink
5.     Content is written using plain, easy to understand language
6.     The site loads quickly
7.     The site is mobile responsive

Benefits to Making Your Website Accessible?

1.     At a Business Level
a.     You reach all your potential customers and clients regardless of their ability.  Your website will do better in search (Google likes accessible sites too).  Studies find that accessible websites have lower maintenance costs.
2.     At a Legislative Level
a.     You’re website will comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
3.     At a Community Level
a.     You are doing the right thing by playing a role in breaking down barriers; leveling the playing field and giving everyone access to the same information.

Test your Site

There are many website accessibility checkers available for free.  For example, you can check your site to see if it is accessible at:

Quick Fixes

Don’t panic if your site has errors, most sites do.  However, you can use the results to find things you can fix easily.  For example you can:

      Reword any links that say “click here”
      Add “alt text” for any images you have on your site
      Add headings and subheadings that will help organize your content
      Reword any content that doesn’t use plain language (e.g. remove jargon)

Other Easy Ways to Test Your Site:

      Ask a friend to find something specific on your site
o   How easy was it for them to move around?
o   Did they find the information?
      Ask a senior or person with a disability for feedback on your site
      Try moving around your site using the keyboard only – no mouse
      Review your own site using a screen reader
o   There are many free screen readers such as:

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web says “The Power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

Let’s do what we can to make the web accessible.

The AODA states that public sites, not-for-profit organizations and private businesses with 50+ employees must comply with the WCAG 2.0 when launching a new website or undertaking major revisions.

Carrie Wakeford, Project Manager
Black Cap Design 
310 Elias Avenue 
Peterborough, Ontario 
Canada , K9J 5G9

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