As businesses continue to shift towards digital platforms, it’s essential to ensure that everyone can access your content. Accessibility is not only a moral obligation but also a legal requirement, and failing to comply with accessibility guidelines can lead to serious consequences. In this blog post, we’ll explore six simple steps you can take to verify your business’s digital accessibility and make sure that all of your users have an equal opportunity to engage with your online presence. From conducting an accessibility audit to providing accessible alternatives, these tips will help you create a more inclusive digital environment for everyone.
1. Conduct an Accessibility Audit
Conducting an accessibility audit is the crucial initial step in identifying barriers that may hinder individuals with disabilities from utilising your website. This will ensure that it is ADA-compliant and friendly towards all visitors. This process entails conducting a thorough review of your website’s design, content, and functionality to assess its compliance with established accessibility standards. To initiate the audit, begin by examining web accessibility guidelines like WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 or Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which outline specific criteria for making digital content accessible to people with disabilities. Subsequently, manually review essential elements on your website, such as color contrast ratios, navigation menus, and keyboard accessibility for forms. Complement your efforts by leveraging automated tools like the A11Y Compliance Platform or Pa11y, which can assist in identifying issues like missing form labels or inadequate alt text for images. Furthermore, it is advisable to test your website across various devices and browsers, as some assistive technologies may function differently across platforms. By undertaking these measures, you can proactively ensure that your website adheres to accessibility standards and is ADA-compliant.
2. Use Accessibility Evaluation Tools
When it comes to digital accessibility, there are a variety of evaluation tools available that can help you ensure your website or app is accessible to all users. These tools range from free browser extensions to more robust paid services. One popular free tool is the WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation) tool, which allows you to enter your website URL and receive an accessibility report with suggestions for improvement. Other options include AChecker and Axe DevTools. For those looking for more comprehensive evaluations, there are also paid services such as Siteimprove and AccessLint that offer automated scans as well as manual testing by accessibility experts. It’s important to remember that while these tools can be helpful in identifying potential issues, they should not be relied on solely. It’s still crucial to conduct manual testing and engage with users with disabilities to truly ensure full accessibility.
3. Test with Assistive Technologies
Testing with assistive technologies is a crucial step in verifying your business’s digital accessibility. Assistive technologies are specialised tools that help individuals with disabilities to access and interact with digital content. There are various types of assistive technologies available, such as screen readers, magnifiers, speech recognition software, and alternative input devices like joysticks or switches. By testing your website or app using these tools, you can identify any potential barriers to accessibility that may exist. One popular assistive technology used for testing is the screen reader software. This tool reads out the text on a webpage aloud and helps people who have visual impairments navigate through the content quickly and easily. Testing with this tool allows you to ensure that all relevant information on your site is accessible via audio narration. Another critical aspect of testing with assistive technologies involves checking for compatibility across different platforms and devices. You should test your website or application across multiple operating systems (Windows, macOS) and web browsers (Chrome, Firefox). Doing so will allow you to see how users who rely on assistive technologies may experience your product differently depending on their device.
4. Engage Users with Disabilities
When it comes to digital accessibility, engaging users with disabilities is a crucial step in ensuring that your website or application is truly accessible. One way to do this is by conducting user testing sessions with individuals who have varying disabilities such as visual impairments or motor impairments. During these sessions, you can observe how they interact with your website or application and gather valuable feedback on areas that could be improved for accessibility. It’s important to involve users with diverse backgrounds and abilities as their experiences may differ greatly from those without disabilities. Another way to engage users with disabilities is through online forums and social media groups dedicated to accessibility. These communities provide a space for individuals to share their experiences and give insights into the challenges they face when using digital platforms. By actively participating in these communities, you can gain a better understanding of the needs of users with disabilities and incorporate their feedback into your design process. This not only helps improve accessibility but also fosters inclusivity in all aspects of your business.
5. Ensure Keyboard Accessibility
When it comes to digital accessibility, ensuring keyboard accessibility is crucial. This means that all functionality on your website or application can be accessed and used solely by using a keyboard. To achieve this, you should ensure that all features are accessible with the use of tab keys and arrow keys. You should also make sure there are no features that require the use of a mouse. This will ensure users who rely solely on their keyboards for navigation have equal access to your content. It’s important to test your website or application using only a keyboard as well as testing for compatibility with different types of keyboards such as ergonomic models or assistive technology devices. Another key aspect of keyboard accessibility is providing clear visual focus indicators such as highlighting where the user has navigated to on the page. This helps users understand where they are in relation to site structure and provides an improved user experience.
6. Provide Accessible Alternatives
Providing accessible alternatives is a crucial step in ensuring digital accessibility for your business. It means offering options that can accommodate users with disabilities who may face barriers to accessing certain types of content or functionality on your website. One way to provide accessible alternatives is by using alternative text (alt-text) for images, which can be read aloud by screen readers and help visually impaired users understand the context of an image. Another option is providing captions or transcripts for videos, which makes them accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. For users with cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia, offering easy-to-read versions of content can make a big difference in their user experience. This could include simplified language or larger font sizes. Additionally, providing keyboard shortcuts and other navigation aids can assist those who have difficulty using a mouse or touchpad to navigate through your site.
By following the 6 simple steps outlined above – conducting an accessibility audit, using evaluation tools, testing with assistive technologies, engaging users with disabilities, ensuring keyboard accessibility, and providing accessible alternatives – businesses can easily verify that their online content is accessible to all. Remember that digital accessibility isn’t a one-time task; it requires ongoing efforts and updates as technology evolves. By incorporating these steps into your regular website maintenance routine, you’ll be able to provide equal access opportunities for all of your customers while improving overall usability and SEO performance.