The world wide web is meant to work for everyone. Regardless of language, ability, or location someone is accessing the internet from—they should be able to use the web.
Since its creation, the designers of the web have made accessibility a fundamental goal. “The power of the Web is in its universality,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, early architect of the World Wide Web. “Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
For businesses, a universally accessible website is about more than good internet citizenship. Accessible websites mean bigger audiences, more customers, and better results on search pages.
What Is Website Accessibility?
Website accessibility means that a website is designed and developed so that people who have disabilities can use them.
This can include being accessible to people with visual, physical, speech, neurological, cognitive, and auditory disabilities. For example, using video captions on video elements can help those who are hard of hearing make sense of videos and having colors clearly labeled can assist people with color blindness make better selections.
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) can help businesses and individuals understand best practices and standards in creating a truly accessible website.
An Accessible Website Helps Everyone
When you design your website with a focus on user experience, it’s easier for people who are using different devices such as smart TVs, smartphones, and smart watches to access your site.
It can also be helpful for people who are in situations where there is bright sunlight or loud noises that limit the experience of the website. When you consider the types of people and conditions that people use a website in, then it becomes clear how a focus on user experience can help both those with and those without disabilities.
Finally, designing with accessibility in mind can help people who have slower internet connections use your site.
3 Fast and Easy Ways to Increase Website Accessibility
All three of these techniques will also make your small business website easier to use and navigate for everyone who accesses your site.
1. Add Headings and Subheadings
Very few people read giant blocks of text—especially online. Which is why having your text broken up into subheads (like you see in this article) is helpful to getting your website visitors to consume your content. Skipping through subheads and bolded areas is called a “layer cake pattern” of reading.In another pattern of reading called the “F pattern,” users will typically concentrate on the first lines of text on a page and the first few words on the left of each line of text in order to figure out what a page is about.
When you are creating content with subheads for readability, you should also “mark up” those subheads to increase accessibility.
Marking up a subhead is easy in most web software. It consists of heading “tags.” At the beginning of a heading you’ll use an HTML tag to tell the computer system where in the hierarchy a subhead goes.
Subheads are sorted into this hierarchy with HTML tags that range from H1 to H6. If you use the proper tags, then you allow screen readers to scan through the article using the tags and announce the structure of the article to people with visual impairments.
When you use the proper markup, instead of just bolding subheads and changing the size of the font, you allow people who can’t use a mouse and can only use a keyboard or screen reader to be able to navigate through your page easily.
2. Increase Screen Contrast
Having good contrast between the background of your website and the text is critical for accessibility, and it helps your site to be more readable overall.
For most small business owners, a white background and black text will provide adequate contrast. You want to avoid a dark backgrounds and dark text. Both can be hard to read.
3. Add Alt Text Tags to Images
Images are key to many people’s experience of the web. But some people have images turned off to speed up the download time of web pages, while others have visual impairments that make seeing images impossible.
Alt text tags are a way to tell people what an image is about if they can’t read the web page, because the screen reader will announce the alt text tag to the user.
Generally speaking an alt text tag should accurately describe the image and not be used to convey additional information. Keeping the description concise helps to increase accessibility.
While there are many comprehensive ways to increase website accessibility, these three are easy to implement and can make the experience of using your website significantly better for people with disabilities as well as the general public.