Why does my website need to be accessible?
1. It’s the right thing to do
Web accessibility is all about making sure all people, including those with disabilities, can have equal access to your website. This is simply the right thing to do. Imagine being blind, deaf, or motor-impaired, and trying to navigate your vacation rental website. Would you be able to successfully make a reservation, or check availability for your properties? Or would it be a difficult, terrible experience?
2. Protection against lawsuits
Secondly, an accessible website can help you avoid lawsuits. Web accessibility lawsuits are occurring more and more frequently. Since January, 2015, 751 companies have faced lawsuits related to website accessibility (51% of these in Florida alone). The hospitality industry faced 57 of these lawsuits*. An accessible website can help protect you from expensive legal fees and loss of reputation.
*Statistics from ADA Title III
Web Accessibility Basics
So how do you get started? Here are four requirements to start off with.
Websites often have a lot of non-text content, like images, video, audio clips, and more. Visually-impaired website visitors often use a “screen reader” that reads the content of a web page out loud. Screen readers cannot understand non-text content, so these users miss out on that content unless there is a text alternative provided. Strategies for this requirement include:
- Adding alternate descriptive text to every image
- Captioning videos
- Providing a transcript for audio clips
People with visual disabilities often have difficulty distinguishing certain colors from each other. Some people’s eyes can only see in black and white, or some completely different color combination. Ensure your website has high contrast by:
- Checking the contrast between foreground and background colors with this color contrast checker
- Blurring a screenshot of your website to check that important areas stand out
- Converting a screenshot of your website to grayscale and checking that all elements are distinctly visible
Many users with disabilities browse the internet using only their keyboard to navigate, without the use of a mouse. To allow these people to browse your website, everything on each page should be accessible through use of the keyboard only. Make your website keyboard-friendly by:
- Styling elements in a distinct way when they are “focused” by the keyboard
- Testing that pressing “tab” through your website passes through every interactive element of the page
- Ensuring correct focus when using pop-ups and other messaging
Solid Website Structure & Coding
Screen readers and other assistive technology can understand your website better when it is structured and coded correctly. Plus, this is just a good practice in web development in general. Make sure you website is running smoothly by:
- Validating your website using a validator like this one from W3.org (https://validator.w3.org/)
- Adding available ARIA tags to assist screen readers
- Using semantic HTML tags like header, footer, nav, etc. where appropriate to indicate the purpose of sections of code
How Can I Get Started?
Audit Your Website
There are several popular tools to test your website for accessibility. Three of my favorites are:
- Chrome Dev Tools Audits: Within Chrome’s builtin developer tools, they have an accessibility audit feature (found under the “Audit” tab) that will test for many common issues. Watch a video on how to use this here.
- HTML Code Sniffer (by Squizlabs): This handy browser plugin can load on top of any page and displays accessibility errors with helpful suggestions on how to fix them.
- WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 Quick Reference: This resource, although pretty dense, is the authoritative, exhaustive document explaining every detail of website accessibility.
Choose a Compliance Level
WCAG 2.0 specifies three levels of accessibility compliance: A, AA, and AAA. Depending on your company you will have a certain level you must meet. All websites, no matter the industry should meet level A. Level AA adds some stricter guidelines, and level AAA provides guidelines for a 100% accessible website, applicable mainly to government and educational sites.
Overwhelmed by these compliance levels? We’ve created a free guide summarizing each level’s guidelines. Download our WCAG 2.0 Compliance Checklist here.
After looking through all these resources, you may be a bit overwhelmed. I was too when I started! Accessibility is a big undertaking, so breaking it up into manageable tasks can really help. Work through each guideline one at a time and this task will seem much less daunting.
If it still seems like an overwhelming project (which it is) then contact us, I'll get you compliant in no time.