Much like person-first language, when you are building, redesigning, or updating your website, putting the user first is key. So is thinking about people within and outside of your circle; people who may have difficulty fully accessing and utilizing your website. Creating a new design, including videos, and adding functionality are all part and parcel of keeping your website up-to-date and are used to help users navigate to the information they need. However, before you implement any changes, remember to stop and think about how you are going to make those features and tools accessible to individuals with a range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities.
According to the World Health Organization about one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, lives with some form of accessibility need. To ensure that everyone, regardless of their need, is able to access vast resources across the web, the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) develops guidelines, support materials, and resources to help people understand and implement accessibility. The WAI offers a series of perspective videos that outline how to make website features and tools accessible and we’ve included their directives for five of those features below.
Keyboard Compatibility: According to the WAI, all functionality must be usable from the keyboard. That is, users can access and move between links, buttons, forms, and other controls using the Tab key and other keystrokes. Websites should not require a mouse; for example, pop-up calendars should also let users type in a date. People with physical disabilities who cannot use the mouse, people who are blind, and cannot see the mouse pointer on the screen, and people with chronic conditions, such as repetitive stress injuries, who should limit or avoid the use of a mouse may depend on keyboard compatibility.
Video Captions: Captions are the text form of audio information in video and animations. This includes the words that are spoken, who is speaking when it is not evident, and important sounds like music, laughter, and noises. Captions must be synchronized with the visual content to contextualize them. People who are deaf and cannot hear the audio, people who are hard of hearing and cannot hear some of the content, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities who need to see and hear the content to better understand it may depend on video captions.
Text to Speech: Many computers and mobile devices have built-in text-to-speech software with some people with disabilities, including people who are blind, using specialized software called screen readers. Screen readers provide important functionality such as navigating through headings, speaking image alternatives, and identifying internal and external links. They can also highlight the text as it is being read aloud for people to see and hear the content at the same time. Content must be coded properly so that all of the functionality of the text-to-speech software works with the content. People who are blind and cannot see what is on the screen, people who have partial sight (often legally blind) and cannot see certain types of content, and people with dyslexia and other cognitive and learning disabilities who need to hear and see text to better understand it may depend on text-to-speech software.
Voice Recognition: Voice recognition can be used for dictating text in a form field, as well as navigating to and activating links, buttons, and other controls. Most computers and mobile devices today have built-in voice recognition functionality. Some voice recognition tools allow complete control over computer interaction, allowing users to scroll the screen, copy and paste text, activate menus, and perform other functions. People with physical disabilities who cannot use the keyboard or mouse, people with chronic conditions who need to limit or avoid using the keyboard or mouse, and people with cognitive and learning disabilities who need to use voice rather than to type may all depend on voice recognition software.
Large Links, Buttons, and Controls: The area for clicking and tapping controls must be large enough for people to activate them. This includes links, buttons, checkboxes, and others. Small controls and controls that are placed too close to each other are difficult for many people, including people with physical disabilities, to use.
Keeping accessibility top-of-mind will eventually lead to it becoming a habit in your design and development stages, and it will benefit users on mobile devices, those who are less fluent in the language of your website, and will generally make your website easier to use across environments. Visit the WAI website for an abundance of information and direction on website accessibility.