The web is the single most powerful tool for connecting businesses with their customers, but that connection can be difficult for some people to make. For more than a billion users worldwide, this is because they have a disability or health condition that prevents them from using some of the features of the internet. These limitations can be physical (blindness, color blindness, mobility issues, or hearing loss), cognitive (learning disabilities), or perceptual (such as low vision). Web accessibility is the process of designing websites that are accessible to people with disabilities. A key principle of this is to build accessibility into the planning and development stages so that it is baked into every aspect of the site. This reduces the risk of having to retrofit a website in response to a lawsuit or complaint, but it also means that the site is more user-friendly for everyone.
In the past, when coding standards and browser capabilities were limited, designers and developers had to come up with creative workarounds to create visually appealing layouts. Unfortunately, some of these “hacks” ended up making websites less user-friendly and harder to use for those with accessibility needs. Fortunately, we no longer have to resort to these types of tricks and can simply create sites that are easy to navigate on all devices by providing large clean text, ideal element sizing, and excellent contrast. Another way to make a site more accessible is to break down large pieces of content into smaller, more manageable sections.
This can be done with clear headings (H1, H2, etc.) to provide a visual hierarchy on the front end of the site and by including what are known as ARIA attributes in the code behind the scenes, this provides structure to the page for screen readers that many visually impaired or blind users rely on to browse the web. When a web designer or developer is building a website, it’s important to involve real users in the testing process so that they can understand what it’s like to navigate the site as someone who might have a disability. This includes getting feedback from family members, friends, and local community groups that help people with disabilities.
This will help them understand what it’s like to navigate the website, and also help the team see how they can improve the site to be more inclusive and easier to use for all users. While some might argue that incorporating accessibility into the design and development of a website can be expensive, it is actually one of the best ways to save money in the long run. Having a website that is ADA compliant can help you rank higher in search engine results pages, which will lead to more organic traffic and a wider audience reach for your business. In the long run, this can be more cost-effective than paying a lawyer to defend yourself in a lawsuit brought by a person with a disability who could not use your website.