One of our key responsibilities as web designers is creating web sites that are accessible for ALL that visit. We must be aware of our audiences and make the site usable for all people no matter their abilities or disabilities. With that being said there are four things to remember that can make a world of difference to our sites accessibility, and you know what the best part is? They are really simple to do!
Use Appropriate Markup
This one seems pretty basic, but can be overlooked. Using appropriate markup allows assistive technologies to better interpret the content. So use appropriate headings, paragraphs and lists. Be sure to strip your content from any extra unneeded code that can be given to your content, especially if you copy and paste from a word processing program. You might think, I will just bold this heading to make it look more prominent on the page, but this isn’t the answer. Use the appropriate heading tag, it will achieve your visual prominence as well as be accessible to assistive technologies. It is a win, win situation:)
Remember Your Alt Text
Alternative text, probably one of the most forgotten or underutilized items, can bring big rewards to the accessibility of your site. The Alt text provides a textual alternative to non-text content. For example, if you have an image of a girl swinging on a tire swing on a sunny spring morning, put an Alt text that describes just that. Often the alt text is left out or so poor that it wouldn’t help the visually impaired. “A Girl” would not be a good alt text, it is very non descriptive and doesn’t help us visualize what is taking place in the image. Instead use:
<img src=”girl.jpg” alt=”A girl swinging on a tire swing on a sunny spring morning”>
Be Aware of the Language You Use
Not all users come to our web sites using a keyboard and mouse. Some use browser assistant technology such as a screen reader. Thus they would tab through links, instead of clicking on them with a mouse. With that in mind we should be aware of the language we are using for links and other items in our content. For example, “Click Here for more information” is suggesting that the user will be using a mouse to get to the information; also the link have very poor description. It doesn’t help the user know what the link is actually referencing. Instead use something more descriptive and non device specific such as, “Find out More Information about Tire Swings”.
Don’t use Color to Convey Information
Too often you will see sites that use linked phrasing such as “Click the Red link to find out more”. For those users that have a visual disability, such as the colorblind, they cannot see the difference between certain colors. Therefore, they might not be able to tell the difference between the red link and the blue link on the page. It is best to use content to convey the link information.
Of course these aren’t the only 4 things that can be done to make our sites accessible. To find out more about web site accessibility reference the Web Accessibility Initiative.