If you build a website, you need to make sure everyone can use it. Nobody sets out to make a purposefully inaccessible website, but if you don’t consider these issues before and during the design phase, gaps will emerge.
In many instances, having accessibility issues isn’t the end of the world. Allowing them to remain and fester on your site has consequences, but if you’re proactive, you can head off the problem before you find yourself in a bind. While some site accessibility issues require a fair amount of effort to uncover and remediate, there are a handful of quick fixes you can make on your site right now.
What does having an accessible site actual entail, though? As we’ve explained earlier, the regulatory framework surrounding the enforcement of accessibility regulation is largely unclear. From a legal standpoint, it’s difficult to fully guarantee compliance with statutes like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act. That being said, there is a set of widely accepted standards that, if followed and regularly maintained, can make your website more accessible.
These standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), form the core of many web developers’ accessibility efforts. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) worked with groups around the world to develop WCAG in order to provide a universal resource for web content accessibility. From governments and corporations to individual needs, WCAG provides guidance on how to make content accessible to everyone.
A comprehensive set of criteria, fully following WCAG 2.0 (the most recent published and approved set of rules) can seem overwhelming to the uninitiated. Luckily, the W3C understands this. The WCAG is easily referenceable and contains strategies for implementation. And when in doubt, you can always refer back to the guiding principles of the WCAG: Perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Keeping these principles in mind when building or remediating a site will help inter the tenets of accessibility into the site.
Keeping these principles in mind is a good first step, but on an immediate level, there are a few small things you can do to make a big impact on your site’s accessibility.
- Headings – When laying out content, use clearly defined header tags (h1, h2, etc.) to give a page structure.
- Alternative text – Make sure that all image files are attached with alt text, which can be used to briefly illustrate the content of the corresponding image.
- Captions – Not everyone can hear, so video and audio content should have captions that carry the message.
- Color contrast – The colors used on your site should be highly contrasted, lest elements blend together and turn out unreadable
Even after tackling these tasks, though, your work probably isn’t done. Leaving aside potentially complex site issues, accessibility isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. Monitoring your site for accessibility concerns isn’t a one-and-done endeavor. Ongoing oversight and maintenance is required to ensure that your site is accessible. Every change on your site, from a new post to a change in underlying code, has the potential to break elements and render a site inaccessible. Organizations interested in upholding best practices need to remain vigilant and establishing processes for maintenance.
Duo can help you in this ongoing process. In addition to auditing your complete site for accessibility issues, Duo can perform rehabilitation and can continue to monitor your site for any issues that may arise.
While Duo can perform a comprehensive audit, there are many accessibility issues that you can catch yourself. Being proactive and making accessibility a core responsibility is a best practice that all organizations should strive toward. Download this accessibility checklist to see what your site should be capable of in order to be fully accessible.