On 23 September 2018, new regulations were introduced in the UK that require all public sector websites to be as accessible to any many people as possible. As 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from long-term disabilities, impairments, and illnesses, the regulations help to ensure web users with visual and hearing impairments, motor difficulties, and learning disabilities, to name a few, are able to access the sites in the same way as non-disabled users.
Although these regulations currently only apply for public sector websites, now is an ideal opportunity for private companies to assess their websites and address accessibility issues to improve the user experience for their customers as well.
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines for accessibility offer some great examples of accessible web design features that any business can easily implement. Here are just 6 of the ways you can improve accessibility along with why they are important.
Some web users may have visual impairments, so ensuring they have access to larger text is a great way to improve accessibility. Using a larger font size as standard (18 px or larger) is an easy way to become more inclusive, although it may not resolve the issues for everyone. Some browsers allow users to zoom in on text by up to 500%, however, certain browsers such as IE 6 don’t offer this functionality, so providing an on page alternative is key. Web developers can implement text resizing options.
When considering the font size, you should also consider captions and images of text. You should also keep in mind that certain font colours may be difficult to read and opt for more visually friendly colours.
Transcripts & Captioning
If your website includes audio content such as podcasts and videos, providing transcripts and captioning is an excellent way to ensure hearing-impaired users have access to the information. If videos do not contain any audio content, including a caption to say ‘no audio’ helps users better understand the content.
You may also choose to include audio descriptions with videos to improve accessibility for visually impaired site users.
If you are including CAPTCHA codes on your website’s contact forms, opting for a code with an audio code reader makes it easier for users with visual impairments to contact your company.
Some web users with visual impairments, older users, and users with colour blindness may have issues with coloured text. As well as considering the colour of your content, you should consider instructional text such as form fields that state things like ‘required fields are marked in red’. Instead, you could opt for marking these fields with ‘required’ and ‘optional’ for clarity.
Additionally, light text on a light coloured background may be easily missed.
Providing an alternative version of your text content without presentational formatting can also help users with visual and cognitive impairments and learning disabilities to better focus and process the content. You could also choose to include an on page content reader.
Low or No Background Audio
Some websites choose to include music, auto-playing videos, or other audio alerts on page load. For visually impaired users, and users with sensory disorders this can be particularly overwhelming.
These sounds can also affect the performance of screen readers and other technologies that rely on audio instruction.
If your website includes moving information such as scrolling banners or videos, including the option to pause and resume the content allows the user to process the information at their pace.
3 Flashes or Less
Some web users may experience seizures induced by flashes and rapid blinks. Trying to limit flashes and blinks to no more than 3 per second should help to avoid issues. If more rapid flashes or blinks are required in your content, adding messages to warn users of flashes helps them avoid content that may trigger seizures.