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  • Writer's pictureDr. Erica Garcia Thomas

Five Ways to Improve Website Accessibility

Erica Garcia Thomas, DBA


Website accessibility should never be an afterthought. Instead, it must be a cornerstone of your website design. When you neglect accessibility, you're shutting the door on people with disabilities, denying them access to your content. That’s not a good look for your brand, business, or compliance status.

 

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. -Time Berners-Lee, Creator of World Wide Web

According to the World Health Organization, around one in six people worldwide experiences a significant disability, totaling a staggering 1.3 billion individuals.


Inclusion encompasses more than just race and gender; it also involves communicating effectively with people who have visible or invisible disabilities. Prioritizing accessibility isn't just about meeting government standards; it's about exceeding them and ensuring clear communication with everyone, regardless of ability.


Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential. -Debra Ruh

Just as we optimize for SEO bots, we also optimize content creation and distribution for accessibility. We encourage you to learn about the regulations (linked below), then tend to your web pages, copywriting, visuals and audio files, and website navigation, or contact us for help.




So, how can you avoid accessibility roadblocks?


1. Design with accessibility: Make exceptional accessibility a cornerstone of your design strategy and functionality. View your site as a tool for telling a cohesive story to all audiences. When you focus on accessibility, you broaden your audience and show that you care and that everyone is welcome. Your images, text on the page, tone, and voice should all convey the same message in alignment with the title of that page or post.


Just as you decide on navigation before you design, do the same with accessibility and research how to comply with government standards. A great website is both accessible and aesthetically pleasing. Functionality and user experience can make or break your website, so prioritize accordingly in the planning stages. Consider screen readers, captioning, voice recognition, and verbal commands.


2. Be aware of color contrast – People who are color blind may struggle to read content where there is not enough of a contrast between the text and the background. Reconsider using color cues altogether.


Once, I was teaching a lecture to 300+ learners, and I utilized colors to show the difference in email marketing best practices. Initially, I thought it was a great idea. Still, I unintentionally neglected the color-blind community and realized it when a student commented, sharing his struggle with colorblindness and how he could not participate or view the activity. I felt horrible but was able to adapt and learn. I’m so proud of that student for speaking up because people with disabilities may not always feel comfortable voicing their roadblocks. Remember, inclusivity starts with understanding diverse perspectives and being open to change with empathy, humility, and compassion. -Dr. Erica


We are innately biased and must move from thinking about what we need and want to do to what serves broad audiences best. When creating visual slides, I always consider color contrast and color choice. When teaching online courses to blind and deaf students, I have learned so much from those interactions, translators, and assistive technology. To be truly inclusive and approachable, our brands must speak to all, regardless of ability.


3. Attention to detail. Add all levels of detail, including accessible names, labels, form instructions, and subtext. Be sure to attend to image alt text and accessible instructions on forms and alerts.

Alt-text descriptions are used for visuals when people use site readers. A great example is when you include an infographic in your blog post. Add alt text to describe the image, and ensure the text is also listed within your text article for screen readers.


Another roadblock to avoid is failing to add text where it needs to be, or sometimes, we need to add the correct text in a particular place. Be sure your website designer is familiar with accessibility best practices. Metadata in HTML is text that isn’t displayed to users but is still in the HTML document to be used by search browsers.


4. Make it work everywhere: on all devices, browsers, and settings. Responsive design is vital in our fast-moving, mobile world. We utilize a variety of apps and web browsers on phones, tablets, smart TVs, and laptops, often connecting them all and moving from one to another seamlessly, so the content we consume must work for all platforms. [# of devices per household]


Make sure your website is accessible to those who don’t use mouse navigation and instead use assistive technologies for online activity.


5. Learn more, constantly. If the world of accessibility is new to you, it can feel incredibly overwhelming. But if you view your learning as a life-long pursuit to increase accessibility and scale with technology, it gets easier.


As digital transformation moves forward, so does our ability to be accessible. Look for technology that helps you address areas you know will help. As you serve diverse customers, ask them for honest, raw input regularly.


We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability. -Stevie Wonder


Human-centered approaches advise prioritizing functionalities and user experience for all audiences. Also, remember to consider your site's SEO optimization and how well bots can crawl it to index your information for Google searches.


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