Once you decide to look at the overall accessibility of your website, your first challenge is determining where to start. The world of digital accessibility is diverse and can even seem quite overwhelming at times. As accessibility becomes a growing initiative for organizations worldwide, the best way to get started is to start small. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few things you can implement right away to make your digital presence more accessible for everyone.
1. Check your site’s level of accessibility
First thing's first: To make progress, you have to know where you’re starting. Do an accessibility check to determine just how much work your website needs to comply with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Our free accessibility checker is a great way to assess your site’s general accessibility level and find out what you should focus on first.
2. Verify proper heading use and a logical site structure
Screen readers and other assistive technologies rely on heading tags to effectively scan websites and help users navigate. Imagine coming to a website and only being able to access a big block of text. It doesn’t sound very appealing or user-friendly, does it? Adding heading tags (h1, h2, etc.) makes it possible for people (and screen readers) to navigate your web content quickly and effectively. As an added bonus, it can give your SEO results a boost as well!
3. Add alt text to images
Images on your site should always include alternative (alt) text. Alt text exists to either describe an image to users using assistive technology, or to indicate that the images are decorative and can be effectively ignored by said assistive technology. Bottom line: Alt text is a simple way to work toward accessibility compliance and make sure that people with and without disabilities can experience your site in similar ways.
4. Avoid using images with text overlay
Tools like screen readers can’t read text when it’s embedded in an image. To make sure readers can fully understand the content on your website, it’s best to avoid using text overlay altogether. If you absolutely must use text overlay, there are a couple things you should do. First, make sure the color contrast is sufficient so that users who are colorblind can read it. Secondly, provide the same text as a caption on the image or somewhere in the alt text.
5. Make hyperlinked text identifiable out of context
Assistive technologies often navigate link-to-link, meaning hyperlinked text is presented out of context. The use of phrases like “click here” or “learn more” doesn’t provide enough information for visitors with disabilities to understand where those links will lead. Instead, opt for phrases that explain where the link goes and make sense out of context. For example, if you are planning to link to your blog, use a phrase like “read our blog,” rather than “click here”.
6. Rewrite instructions that focus on color or page geography
For most visitors, it might make complete sense to reference clicking on a red button or the link in the left-hand corner of the page. However, for visitors who are colorblind or use assistive technology, those instructions could mean next to nothing. Instead, rely on site structure, headings, or other label types that instruct visitors where to find specific content without the use of purely visual cues.
7. Determine if your multimedia content has a transcript and/or captions
Providing a transcript for audio or video content is the most basic level of accessibility for multimedia content. A transcript allows users with any number of disabilities to access content they might not otherwise experience. Ideally, captions synced with video and audio content would also be provided so users who are deaf or hard of hearing can watch a video while simultaneously reading along with the audio. With a simple Google search, you’ll find plenty of transcription and captioning services or software to help you make your web presence that much more accessible.
With roughly 15% of people worldwide living with a disability*, it’s more important than ever to make your website accessible for all. These quick tips will help you get a jump start on your accessibility progress and start you on the way to a more inclusive digital presence.
To dive a little deeper into the world of digital accessibility, download The Must-Have Web Accessibility Handbook.
*World Health Organization, World Report on Disability