It is easy to forget that the internet, as widely accessible as it is, is very difficult for some people to use. The blind and deaf as well as amputees and people with cognitive impairment use the internet as much as anyone else and in order to do so they depend on accessibility tools that navigate your website’s code. You can make the process more efficient by optimizing accessibility applications and taking into account visual disabilities when designing your website.
The first and most fundamental approach is within the HTML code used to construct a page. HTML incorporates the use of roles to define objects on a page. Roles like banner, navigation, main, and contentinfo along with others mark the main sections of a webpage so that page readers can find and sort through them for visually impaired users.
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) offers tutorials and tools like WAVE which can test your site for accessibility issues. Wave can add to your own benefit as well when it picks out skipped heading levels, broken and redundant links, and misused labels.
There are design practices to keep in mind as well like taking issues of low contrast and colour based identification into account. Monotone pages are not intuitive and can slow any user down regardless of ability. Other aesthetic practices like incorporating videos and sounds should be modified for all users as well. Video’s that do not pause and applications that load automatically are distracting for everyone but in the case of someone who is dependant on a screen reader, it can affect their ability to operate the computer as well as your website.
- Create keyboard navigable widgets
- Be mindful about access keys (hotkeys) and how they will work across browsers and devices
- Make the tab order follow reading flow
- Focus on WAI-ARIA roles and use them whenever possible
Accessibility optimization affects all users impaired or otherwise. Implementing techniques outlined by the W3C and WebAIM can make your website more intuitive for users and can make your site run smoother on their browsers and devices. Optimizing naturally organizes the structure and flow of your website and can even help with search engine rankings which is a win-win for you and your clients.