Online accessibility has become one of the top priorities for many web developers. Why is that the case? It is a direct result of lawyers filing lawsuits against website owners for not making their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
If you own a small business, such a lawsuit could be devastating. Luckily, making your website accessible can take as little as just a few hours. However, doing it effectively will require familiarizing yourself with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and Section 508 Compliance.
But what are those guidelines, and what is 508 Compliance? To put it shortly, they are legal documents that outline what a website should look like to be fully accessible to people with disabilities. To make the whole concept easier to understand, we made a list of the most common online accessibility barriers. Take a look!
Lack of Alternative Text
Alternative text is a short description of an image located in the HTML code of a website. It is especially important to people who use screen readers to surf the internet. While a screen reader cannot spontaneously describe an image, it can read the alternative text.
For example, imagine a blind person visiting a website of a company specializing in VoIP PBX systems. It contains an image of a man talking on the phone. If the HTML code of that website contains alternative text that describes that image, the screen reader will read that description aloud.
If your website does not contain many images, adding alternative text should be relatively easy to do. However, keep in mind that it should not be longer than 125 characters. That is where most screen readers will cut it off.
Forgetting About Keyboard Compatibility
Remember, not everyone can use a mouse. For example, it is useless to someone who is blind. They are not able to tell where the mouse pointer is on the screen anyway. The same goes for people with all kinds of physical disabilities.
Considering that, you should make sure that your website is fully functional even if the user does not have a mouse. It means that they should be able to access and move between links, buttons, forms, and other controls by only using the Tab key and other keystrokes.
Did you know that content that flickers, flashes, or blinks can trigger photosensitive epilepsy? It is also worth noting that specific visual patterns and images have been observed to cause seizures as well, even if they are not animated.
To protect people who have photosensitive epilepsy, Section 508 prohibits flickering effects with a frequency greater than three flickers per second and lower than fifty-five flickers per second. But in the more severe cases, even one or two flickers are enough to cause a seizure. Because of that, it would be best if you simply avoided using flickering effects and potentially triggering images on any of your websites.
Media Players That Do Not Display Captions
Do you want to post videos on your website? If that is the case, make sure to use media players that display captions. If you do not do that, people who are either deaf or hard of hearing will not understand what is being said in the video.
Adding captions is not that difficult. It can take a while if you want to post a longer video, but it is definitely worth the effort. After all, if someone wants to sue you, checking whether the media players on your website display captions is basically effortless. In fact, it will most likely be one of the first things that they do. Due to that fact, captions should be one of your top priorities!
Make Your Content More Accessible to People With Disabilities!
All in all, there are many ways in which you can make using a website harder for people with disabilities. If it is incompatible with assistive technologies or does not offer any accessibility features, they will feel frustrated and discriminated against. Consequently, they are less likely to buy your products or use your services.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of resources out there that you can use to educate yourself on web accessibility. Doing so will help you make your website more inclusive and allow you to get a deeper understanding of what the disabled have to deal with while surfing the internet. If you do not have the time to do that, you can always hire an independent consultant who will perform a manual review of your website and tell you what has to be changed or added.
In conclusion, if you want your business to be more inclusive and avoid getting sued, make sure that your website meets the modern standards of digital accessibility!