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The Importance Of Making Your Website Accessible

Last updated on February 21, 2020
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In addition to website best practices for SEO, user experience, and online sales, accessibility is another essential component of your website. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created in 1990 to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, and today, its guidelines extend to websites as well. Though the ADA does not contain any language pertaining specifically to websites or the internet, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) define best practices for making websites navigable by those using assistive technology and screenreaders. This guide covers what you need to know about making changes to your website and all the important reasons to focus on accessibility.

Reasons Your Website Should Be Accessible

Ensuring your site is accessible increases the number of people who can access your tours and activities, protects your business from potential litigation, and improves the quality of your business overall.

Improve Overall User Experience

One of the guidelines for a site to be accessible (more on these later) is for it to be easily navigable and operable. This means the content is organized logically with headings, pages have descriptive titles, and the website has consistent menus on every page. These guidelines are not only important for people with disabilities, but they also improve the user experience for everyone accessing your site. WCAG guidelines can make it easier for people to understand the content and find the pages they’re looking for.

Improve SEO Performance

Today’s search engines are always evolving to crawl pages with human intent in mind. Accessible websites are more likely to appeal to users and search engines alike, ultimately improving your SEO efforts. This is where elements like title tags and video transcripts come into play.

Increase Your Target Audience

According to the CDC, one in four U.S. adults has a disability, making accessible websites essential for reaching your target audience. If people with disabilities find your website and are unable to read some of the content using their screen reader or cannot watch a video on your services because it does not have subtitles or a transcript, you could be losing a potential customer. 

Boost Your Reputation

For a person with a disability, the choice between your business and that of your competitor could be as simple as usability your website. If the person can easily navigate and understand all of the content on your website, they’ll be happy to do business with you because they can see that they are valuable to your company. Keep in mind that they’ve likely visited similar websites that were not accessible before finding yours. The effort that you put into making sure everyone is included can set you apart from your competitors.

How to Make Your Website Accessible

Images & Videos

  • Images must have alt text, a word or phrase that can be inserted as an attribute in an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document to tell users on the website the nature or contents of an image.
    • For icons and symbols, provide alt text describing what the symbols represent instead of describing the symbol out of context.
    • If the image is of text and the text is essential to the page, the alt text must match it exactly.
  • Time-based media like video and audio must have a text alternative which can be either a transcript of the media or a description of the media. For example, an animation showing how to do something without audio must have a description of the process.
  • Closed captions must be provided (or a text alternative provided) for any live video or audio (i.e. streaming of any type).
  • Closed captions must be provided for all videos.
  • Videos cannot flash at more than three times a second and content should not be seizure-inducing without warning.

Content

  • Content must be organized using logical headings that are related to the content in a meaningful sequence.
    • Headings, subheadings, and labels for all elements that correspond to them are descriptive.
    • Headings consecutively follow the levels H1 – H6 rather than skipping levels.
    • Do not use bold or large text in place of a heading if the text should be a heading.
  • Try to avoid using acronyms for a lot of content (e.g. SPCA).
  • Text size should be appropriate based on context (e.g. page titles are bigger) and body text should be between sizes 12 and 14.
  • All pages must have descriptive titles.

Additional Elements

  • Color cannot be the only method of conveying information. For example, if the required fields on a form are marked in red, they must also be marked with a * so that even colorblind people can see which fields are required.

  • All forms need labels for each field and/or instructions on how to fill out each field.
  • Websites have consistent menus that are the same on each page.
  • The purpose of any and all links can be determined from the link text alone (e.g. adventuretours.com/snorkeling-tours vs. adventuretours.com/page842).
  • All pages must have breadcrumbs, a secondary navigation scheme that tells a user where they are within a website.

  • The site includes multiple different ways to get to the same webpage (e.g. navigation, breadcrumbs, sitemap).

Now that you know the guidelines for having an accessible site, look through your website and determine which elements need to be updated. If you’re on a FareHarbor site, we can help your website meet certain criteria like adding alt text, writing descriptive hyperlinks, and more, and our accessibility efforts are always evolving. For more ways to improve your website, head on over to our website guides.

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