Inclusive Online Experience: 5 Essential Accessibility Features
Accessible websites provide an inclusive environment of learning and growth for everyone. In today’s digital age, brands and organisations must be able to keep up with the latest changes in technology, and this includes adapting one’s website presence for an experience that welcomes all, including people with disabilities.
To start with, a good example of an accessible website is from AIIM Choices, an Australian NDIS Plan Managers service organisation. Through a simple, one-click orange icon on the screen, the accessibility features of the website can be activated depending on the needs of the user.
The accessibility menu enables different accessibility profiles for users experiencing motor impairment, blindness, colour blindness, dyslexia, visual impairment, ADHD, cognitive and learning differences, and seizure and epileptic episodes. The widget size can also be adjusted to extra large, with different features such as screen readers, smart contrast, highlight links, bigger text, text spacing, pause animations, hide images, dyslexia-friendly page structure, line height, text alignment, and saturation to name a few.
According to a recent post from the United Nations (and also an open challenge), affordability and accessibility to technology are the two main obstacles to digital access and inclusion. Transitioning towards accessible websites helps address this. To start with, what makes an accessible website? Here are some factors as recommended by WebAIM from the Institute for Disability Research, Policy, and Practice of Utah State University.
In line with the four core principles of accessible online content
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to standardise accessible online content. The WCAG ensures that online content is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. These are also known as the POUR principles. Below is a short overview of each concept:
- Perceivable: The content must be perceivable through various senses. This includes voice assistance and accessibility to screen readers, as well as other adaptive technologies available for touch and sight.
- Operable: Online content should be easily navigable and compatible with various devices aiding accessibility. This includes controls via voice, adaptive keyboards, and mouse devices, among others.
- Understandable: Content should be straightforward. As much as possible, the use of jargon and other complex website elements should be minimised.
- Robust: Online content should function seamlessly across various devices, browsers, and assistive technologies. Moreover, websites should be future-proof, adapting to the evolving needs of their users.
One common website accessibility feature is alternative text. This is the text equivalent for every non-text element on a website. It ensures that images and hyperlink content have text descriptions, like “a photo of…” or “a link directing to…” for users with visual impairments. This aids screen readers in navigating the website effortlessly.
Incorporating headers, subheads, lists, regions, and skip links greatly enhances a user’s experience in processing online content. Headers, subheads, and regions organise content effectively. Lists emphasise points, making content easier to understand. Additionally, the skip feature lets users quickly access the content they are looking for.
Colour and Other Visual Elements
Colours play an important role in website design. However, user experiences vary. Some might have colour blindness, while others might need specific contrast levels. Offering tools to adjust these settings promotes a more inclusive website experience.
Regarding visual elements like videos, graphics, and animations, avoid auto-play features, as sudden audio can be startling for hearing aid users. Also, when selecting designs and animations, it’s vital to sidestep content that might trigger epileptic seizures or cause disorientation for some individuals.
For accessible websites utilising multimedia, it’s advisable to integrate features like closed captions and transcripts. Ensure closed captions are synchronised and easy to access. Many videos from platforms like YouTube already have a closed caption feature. If you’re creating your own content, consider adding in-video subtitles.
Achieving complete accessibility for a website is paramount in today’s digital age. It not only makes your site inclusive but also widens your audience reach. Collaborating with a local agency such as Digital Marketer Bee that has expertise in creating accessible websites can be a game-changer, ensuring that your online platform caters to everyone seamlessly and effectively.