Web accessibility has become a prominent topic, with an abundance of information available on the subject. In a study conducted by WebAIM on the top 1,000,000 websites, they discovered a staggering 50,829,406 distinct accessibility errors. On average, that amounts to 50.8 errors per page. Many companies tend to focus on accessibility testing towards the end of the development process. However, by training developers and prioritizing web accessibility from the start, we can significantly reduce the number of accessibility errors.
Understanding Web Accessibility
In its simplest form, web accessibility refers to ensuring that websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities. To illustrate this further, consider the experience of blind users who rely on screen readers. A screen reader is a tool that converts on-screen information into speech, allowing blind users to navigate the computer. When a website is designed with accessibility in mind, the screen reader accurately delivers the necessary information to the user. However, an inaccessible website results in incomplete or incorrect information being conveyed by the screen reader. Assistive technologies like screen readers are only effective when websites are designed with accessibility as a core principle.
It is crucial to differentiate between “accessible” and “usable.” While a website may meet the minimum legal requirements for accessibility, it may not provide the most user-friendly experience for people with disabilities. Therefore, going the extra mile to make your website both accessible and usable is essential. In this article, we will explore practical ways to achieve this goal.
Five Strategies to Incorporate Accessibility Into Your Website
1. Set up an automated accessibility pipeline.
A straightforward and efficient approach to embedding accessibility into your application is to adopt the “Shift left” philosophy. This means starting accessibility testing as early as possible in the development process rather than waiting until the end. Several accessibility checkers are available to assist you in setting up automated accessibility testing for your website. These range from browser extensions like WAVE and Accessibility Insights to integrated tools for your CI/CD pipeline. By utilizing these tools, you can identify accessibility errors, such as missing ARIA labels or color contrast issues, and address them proactively. According to Deque, automated tools can catch 57 percent of accessibility issues compared to the industry’s believed rate of 20 percent.
2. Learn from your automated accessibility results.
Implementing automated accessibility testing is a significant step forward, but it’s equally important to learn from the accessibility errors that are detected. For example, if you consistently encounter issues with missing labels for forms or alt text for images, take measures to avoid repeating these errors in the future. Additionally, conduct code reviews to identify and rectify inaccessible code. Look out for common issues such as missing ARIA labels, alt text, or page titles. While automated testing tools are valuable, they become even more effective when paired with preemptive error resolution.
3. Conduct keyboard navigation and screen reader testing.
If you want to go beyond automated accessibility testing, it’s crucial to test your website’s functionality using a keyboard. Interactive elements should be accessible via tab keys, while dropdown menus should respond to arrow keys. Familiarize yourself with appropriate keystrokes for various UI elements. For example, static table cells do not require keyboard accessibility, but custom interactive elements should be accessible via keyboard commands. By assigning a tabindex of 0 to the element and defining event handlers like “onKeyPress,” you can ensure keyboard accessibility. Consider testing your website with a screen reader as well, especially if you do not engage a third-party accessibility vendor for manual testing. Verify that appropriate labels are announced, redundant information is avoided, and tables are accessible. Free screen readers like Windows Narrator and Voiceover for Mac can facilitate this testing.
4. Utilize accessibility debugging tools.
Accessibility debugging tools can assist in identifying and resolving accessibility bugs on your website. The Browser Accessibility Tree is particularly valuable, as it allows you to view the accessibility states and properties of UI elements. By understanding what accessibility information is being conveyed to assistive technologies, such as screen readers, you can effectively address any issues. In Google Chrome, you can access the Accessibility Tree through Devtools by clicking on the Accessibility Pane beside the Layout Pane. Another useful tool is Paul’s bookmarklets, which highlight roles, states, and properties of elements, including mobile devices. Both of these tools are instrumental in fixing accessibility bugs.
5. Account for a variety of disabilities.
In addition to screen reader and keyboard testing, it is essential to consider the needs of individuals with other disabilities. Ensure that videos on your website include accurate captions. For individuals with cognitive disabilities, follow WCAG guidelines on creating accessible content. Take into account conditions like colorblindness and use tools such as TPGi’s Color Contrast Analyzer with a Color Blindness Simulator to ensure your website utilizes accessible colors and themes. Lastly, if your website incorporates custom speech-to-text functionality, make sure it is accessible to individuals with speech disabilities by allowing ample time for their input.
Digital accessibility plays a crucial role in providing equitable access to the web for the one billion people living with disabilities worldwide. Unfortunately, the current state of digital accessibility is far from ideal, with thousands of accessibility lawsuits filed each year. By implementing the strategies outlined above, developers can embed accessibility into the development process and address as many errors as possible before users encounter frustrating experiences. If you require assistance with auditing your website’s accessibility or need help in creating an accessible website, feel free to contact Top Ad Online. Our team of experts is dedicated to ensuring a truly inclusive online experience for all users.