Media is all around us today. Be it written, images, video, or audio. Many companies utilize most, if not all, as part of their website repertoire. But is your content accessible? Here are my top tips for website accessibility.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
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Table of contents
Web accessibility…Is it necessary?
Just as a shop needs to be handicap accessible, so does your website and other media forms. People, regardless of their ability, need to have clear and understandable access to your content.
Even though there are no specific laws for websites at this time, courts are operating under the spirit of ADA laws as well as following WCAG2.0 guidelines and fining companies with websites that are deemed not accessible.
We have seen large corporations like Winn Dixie and H&R Block receive judgments and orders to make necessary changes. It is only a matter of time before smaller businesses will be held to the same standards.
Beyond that, we all should be concerned about how our websites represent our business’ principles. A fully accessible website ensures every potential client has the access they deserve.
What are some easy ways to create an accessible website? Best practices for assistive technologies.
The first and easiest top tip to make your website ADA compliant and accessible is with your images. When uploading images to your site, you have the option to add a description in the alternate text field.
The trick with this is to truly describe what is happening in the image. The reason for this is individuals using a screen reader will have a much better experience.
For example, don’t just say “dog”; instead, say “large brown and white dog playing with a ball at the park.” Much better! One other tip is to avoid starting your descriptions with “picture of”; most screen readers will automatically state this.
The other advantage of doing this is that it will also boost SEO. You are adding much more information and content for Google to index and potentially increase your ranking.
Open and closed captions
This one may seem easy enough. Upload a video to YouTube and put on their captions. A word of caution, though, YouTube is only roughly 70-80% accurate. To ensure a truly accessible experience, you will want to review the captions and make any necessary changes manually.
Another option is to use a transcript company. We use rev.com as they offer captions, transcripts, and foreign subtitles. This can be a great time-saver and is worth the minimal investment.
The other good thing about rev.com is that they give you a tag that allows you to burn the captions into the video, so they come on automatically. This means one less button to push, which again helps with accessibility.
Another takeaway is that studies have shown that certain viewers will only stay on a video if they can read it. So by using captions, you are not only ensuring accessibility, but you are also hitting a key demographic.
Special Characters and Font
Special characters include but are not limited to emojis, emoticons, multiple fonts, or punctuation. All of these need to be used cautiously. Think of it from the perspective of a screen reader or an individual with low vision.
A screen readers’ job is exactly what its name describes. It reads everything on the page out loud. Everything! So if you put twenty smiley faces on a post or a blog, the screen reader will say smiley face twenty times. Imagine how frustrating not to mention annoying that would be for the listener!
When it comes to special characters and fonts, a screen reader can misinterpret what is actually being written, resulting in a poor user experience. This can also present an issue to an individual with low vision as it would be challenging to differentiate the text.
Can you truly say that your website content follows ADA requirements and is accessible if individuals can not gain a reasonable understanding of what is on the page?
Choosing an easy-to-read font and being balanced when using special characters will ensure a more accessible and enjoyable website experience.
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Adding audio to your written content is another great way to ensure your website is accessible. Now there are a couple different ways you can do this.
One is to use an automated service that will take your written text and turn it into an audio file. The downside to this is that it can sound robotic.
Another option would be to do a podcast. This is a great way to take your content and repurpose it into an audio form. Not only will this help make your content more accessible it will also appeal to another audience source.
What is my top tip for website accessibility?
We have just scratched the surface with these top tips for best practices regarding website accessibility. There are many ways to ensure your website is accessible for every type of user.
It used to be a few years back that companies would end up spending thousands and thousands of dollars to have a web developer make sure their website was accessible and continued to be with any added content.
Thankfully we have access to software today that can make website accessibility much easier to attain. I personally found that the simplest solution for my sites was to install a plugin.
There are a few options available, so do your research to find the right fit for your website needs. For us, we use a plug-in called Accessibe. It is very user-friendly and is easy to set up.
Final takeaway on website accessibility
If you aren’t doing it, you need to be. Not only because you want to avoid a complaint that your website isn’t ADA compliant or, even worse, a lawsuit. But do it because you should! Show that your company stands for equality. Personally, I love that every person who visits any of my sites will have a pleasant and accessible experience.