There are various benefits to making your website more accessible, ranging from the moral to the financial. Implementing accessibility features helps people with disabilities use your website, while also expanding your potential audience, improving search engine optimization, and strengthening your organization’s public image.
Although accessibility brings with it a wide range of advantages, many web developers still aren’t sure about the best ways to begin making websites more accessible. These four basic tips can help developers get started with their accessibility initiatives.
1. Use Alternative Text
Alternative text (or “alt text”) is included as part of an image’s HTML code. It’s used to describe the contents of the image and its role within the website.
Including alt text has a variety of benefits for your website for all users. For example, screen reader software relies on alt text to convey the content of your website to people with visual disabilities, but the text also acts as a substitute in the event that the image does load properly and makes it easier for search engines to understand what’s on each page of your site.
Effective alt text should be short yet descriptive, written in natural language. Images that are purely decorative, however, should not include alt text to avoid confusing users of screen reader software.
2. Identify the Right Languages
Like alt text, identifying the language that your website’s pages are written in will help people find the content that’s most relevant to them.
Screen readers perform better if they know which language a page is written in. For example, check out this short video of a screen reader speaking the same French text with both an English and a French pronunciation. Identifying the page’s language also helps search engines deliver better results to people searching in different languages.
You can identify your page’s language using the lang attribute in the html tag. Any changes to this primary language, including short expressions in another language, should be identified with an individual element as well.
3. Limit the Use of CAPTCHA
CAPTCHA tests have a noble and important purpose: differentiating between human users and robots, thereby blocking computers from swarming your website with malicious traffic. However, they often depend on the user identifying distorted text, which means that they can present serious difficulties for users with visual impairments or learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
There are several ways that CAPTCHA can be improved or removed from your website. For example, Google’s reCAPTCHA system allows users to solve either a visual or an audio challenge. You could also allow users to confirm their identity by speaking with a human representative, or remove CAPTCHA for users who are already authorized or logged in.
4. Help with Form Validation
Validating form information is an important step to make sure that users enter the correct input into your website. However, completing forms can be one of the most challenging tasks for users with disabilities.
Error messages should be short yet clear, making it easy for the user to understand what the problem is and how to correct it. HTML5 provides input types that handle validation for you and display an error message to the user when necessary. These include the email, url, date, and time input types.
Whenever possible, accept information in a variety of formats. For example, if you ask users to provide a phone number, you should be able to accept it regardless of whether they use spaces or hyphens as a separator, or whether they place parentheses around the area code.
Developers, as they create websites from start to finish, have a crucial role in accessibility and a unique opportunity to ensure users with disabilities have a smooth online experience. For more tips on website accessibility, visit the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s blog or sign up for our free and confidential scanning tool to see how your website measures up to web accessibility standards.