How to Improve Website Accessibility for People with Disabilities
Make It Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust
Worldwide, there are an estimated 1 billion people with some sort of disability. And in the United States, that number could be as high as 20 percent of the population.
Many disabilities can make it difficult for people to browse the web. Some people with disabilities rely on assistive technologies — like magnification software, head pointers, and motion or eye trackers — to access content. But if your website or digital product doesn’t include features to support these assistive technologies, it can be difficult or even impossible for people with disabilities to experience your content.
Four primary principles that are not technology-specific shape the guidelines:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable with a variety of tools.
- Understandable: Websites must use clear, concise language and offer functionality that is easy to comprehend.
- Robust: Websites should work well enough across platforms, browsers and devices to account for personal choice and user need.
To get started with the guidelines above, take these steps:
- Perform an accessibility audit. While no replacement for the manual audit of an entire site, using an online accessibility tool can quickly provide a baseline from which to gauge time and workload. Try AChecker or WebAIM’s Wave tool for starters. For more detailed information, this helpful post compares three popular automated accessibility testing tools.
- Create a plan. Outline priorities and timelines for each of the four guidelines. It is inevitable that some things on your checklist will be easier to implement than others. Prioritize.
- Implement changes. Make improvements in small, manageable chunks based on your available resources.
- Train your team. Get company stakeholders on board with keeping your website compliant over time.
- Embrace transparency. Make sure everyone knows this is a priority for you and your organization. If you’re in the process of transitioning your website, let people know.