9 ways to make your website more accessible and inclusive

We all spend a lot of time and resources making our websites the best they can be, so they can reach as many people as possible, and make a big impact on our target audiences. One thing that lots of people don’t consider much is the accessibility of their website for disabled users.

There are lots of things you can do to make your website more accessible and inclusive for your disabled customers, and we’re going to discuss some of them below.

Familiarise your team with accessibility guidelines

The first, and probably the most important, step you can take is to familiarise yourself with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Make sure your content writers, web designers, developers and anyone else who assists with your website understands the guidelines and consults them regularly. This is a good way to make sure your website design and any future content you publish is accessible and inclusive.

Use descriptive alt text 

Elements like images, videos, presentations, charts and audio can be an accessibility barrier to blind users or those with low vision. Using descriptive alternative text to describe these things can help to provide context for screen readers who would otherwise miss out.

Alt text isn’t just an accessibility issue, it’s useful for several reasons. It replaces the image if it fails to load and also helps to improve your website’s SEO. Providing a short summary of each image with carefully chosen keywords is a good habit to get into. 

Choose your colours carefully

When choosing your colour schemes and branding for your website, it’s important to use sufficiently contrasting colours when it comes to text. Words need to stand out against the background in order to be read easily, but especially for people who are colour blind. 

Ideally, you should choose a dark colour to sit against a light one, or vice versa, making sure the words don’t blend into the background and become unreadable.

Label your forms properly

Forms are a useful and often necessary addition to most websites. Whether you want people to sign up to your newsletter, enter a competition, apply for a job or place an order – it’s likely you’ll need to use forms in one way or another.

When designing your forms for accessibility, you should always consider people using screen readers. Make sure your fields are formatted correctly, and provide instructions and information in clear way so that users can easily understand what they need to do. 

As a sighted user, it’s easy to look at a form and understand how it works. It might not be the case for screen readers, so using form builders and plugins that specifically focus on accessibility will help to make sure they’re properly constructed.

Keep copy clear and concise

It might seem obvious, but to make your website accessible and inclusive, you need to make sure your copy is written in easy to read, plain English. Using headers and bullet points to structure your content clearly is another useful way to make your website digestible and easy to understand.

When you live and breathe your industry, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone knows what you’re talking about. Or worse, thinking that fancy language makes you seem smarter. 

The truth is, a lot of specialist words and acronyms don’t make you sound big or clever. In fact, they often just come across as jargon, and this creates an uneccessary barrier to people trying to use your website.

Use keyboard navigation

Navigation can be a challenge for blind and visually impaired users, with many using Braille keyboards and screen readers to help them find their way around a website. 

While sighted users can glance at the screen and use the mouse to browse the menu, someone with low vision might not be able to do that. Making sure your website can be navigated using just the keyboard goes a long way to making your website experience that much easier for your audience.

Use captions and audio description on videos

If you’re using video or animations with voiceovers and speech on your website, it’s worth remembering that many people won’t actually be able to listen, including your deaf and hard-of-hearing users. 

Lots of people scroll social media and websites while they’re watching TV, when they’re on public transport, and while they’re sitting at their desks. Not everyone will want to turn the sound on during these times, and without captions they’ll have no idea what your video is about. 

Using captions is an easy way to make sure you’re not alienating anyone from watching your content. To take this a step further, you could also consider using audio descriptions for your videos to help your blind and low vision users.

Only use tables if really necessary

Like many visual content assets, screen readers can struggle to read tables in the way they’re usually intended. While tables can be a great way for sighted users to interpret data quickly and easily, they often just create more confusion for some users.

It’s a good idea to limit your use of tables if you want your website to be more accessible to screen readers. If you must use one, make sure you use the correct headers for each row and column, and provide captions for additional context.

Use descriptive links

We’re all guilty of using words like “click here” now and again when linking to other pages on our sites. Not only is this lazy and bad SEO practice, but it’s not helpful for screen readers either. Next time, try using descriptive text when providing a link, so that visually impaired users can scan through links easily. 

These are just a few of the many things you can do to create a more accessible and inclusive website for all your users, including those with hearing or sight impairments. If you’d like to discuss more ways to improve the accessibility of your website for disabled users, get in touch. We’d love to help!

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