In our previous article, we elaborated upon the myths surrounding web accessibility. Let us delve a bit deeper to understand the importance of the same and the possible ways and means to improve it. We have already developed a fair idea about what web accessibility means. We will first summarize a little about the precise meaning of web accessibility for the convenience of those who missed out on the earlier article regarding busting myths about web accessibility.
The practice of providing access to digital content and applications to all people irrespective of any impairment they might have is what we call the web accessibility. Here we include all individuals who might have such impairments like auditory, motor, visual, speech, or cognitive disabilities.
Importance of web accessibility
Besides legal compulsion, the ensuing benefit is likely to be derived by the companies that speak for the importance of providing unhindered web accessibility to all, notwithstanding their impairments. According to a census conducted by the US Census Bureau in 2012, around 15% of the world population suffers from some form of disability. In the United States alone, it was 19% of their total population when the census report was released in July 2012. Given such staggering figures, it is all the more important to provide web accessibility to all types of people irrespective of their impairments.
How can web accessibility be improved
In our previous article, we have seen how some gross myths surrounding the web accessibility aspect limited its development. Web accessibility has suffered indifference and laxity in the hands of some unethical digital agencies and their design and development teams for the past two decades. They did not pay any heed to the constant technological development, the ever-changing demographic evolution, and a discerning change into the legal aspect of providing web accessibility. However, we shall have an in-depth look at how to make web accessibility a universal phenomenon.
Essential tips to improve web accessibility
- Provide sufficient colour contrasts
Sufficient colour contrast between the background and the text enables people with visual impairment to read content successfully. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are around 217 million people worldwide with moderate to severe visual impairment. As such, UX designers must incorporate enough colour contrast to enable such visually impaired persons to read the text from its background. In case of a slightly lower contrast ratio than the recommended 4.5 to 1, UX designers must use sizeable and bolder typefaces to compensate for the loss in the contrast ratio. With the advanced technological tools in the hands of the UX designers these days, the level of colour contrast can be maintained at the recommended ratio for all practical purposes.
- Use some indicator other than colour
The use of colour alone cannot convey all the critical information to your intended users. It is essential to incorporate some form of a visual cue in addition to colour while displaying an action or when you are pushing for a response. People with colour blindness or low visual sharpness would not be able to decipher the text, until and unless you use an indicator such as text labels or patterns in addition to colour contrast.
While sharing more complex information like graphs and charts, the use of other visual aspects like size, shape, and labels is recommended. Your target will be to ensure all the information furnished on your website to become colour-agnostic.
- Use focus indicators
We often observed the blue outlines around links, buttons, and inputs while navigating through a website. These outlines are termed as focus indicators. Blind people requiring screen readers, persons with restrictive mobility, and people with injuries like carpal tunnel find the focus indicators useful while navigating through a website. People who primarily use keyboards for navigating through the web are also benefited from the use of focus indicators. It basically helps people navigate the web by highlighting the elements with maximum keyboard focus. When focus indicators are used, links, buttons, widgets, form fields, and menu items can be identified easily by the disabled people as these elements feel differently from the rest elements.
- Avoid using non-label text/placeholder text as label
While using screen readers, the <label> elements are read for each form control. In such cases, people use the tab key to navigate through the form controls. Thus, any non-label text, as placeholder texts, tends to be omitted. UX designers should be careful enough not to hide any descriptions or directions while people engage in filling an input in a form. They should ensure people do not lose the context while putting their input. If anything contrary happens in this regard, it can be construed as discarding usability in favour of simplicity.
- Use alternative text for images and non-text content
Screen readers are an essential tool for visually impaired people to hear the web. You have to make arrangements for converting the texts to audible speeches so that people with low vision can hear the words used as an alternative to images and non-text content.
- Suitable heading, sub-heading, subtitles, etc convey the order of the content better
We use heading, subheading, subtitles, etc. to convey the order of the content in a better way. Likewise, screen readers use heading tags in a graded order to depict an overview of the concerned page.
- Prioritized keyboard navigation
Most people, irrespective of their physical or mental impairment, use a keyboard to navigate a website's content. Thus, keyboard accessibility is viewed as one of the most vital requirements of universal web accessibility. The Tab key is a crucial button to navigate through the interactive elements of a user interface. If you can navigate your web page using the keyboard alone without using the mouse, your website's accessibility can be certified as reasonably good.
The last thing you want is a staggering number of links and a tediously lengthy text. You have to make a conscious effort not to overburden your web-pages with numerous links and exhausting length of the texts. If you can confine the number of links to a reasonable number and optimize the content's length concisely, the chance of accessing your website by all the target users becomes much brighter.