When you encounter a problem with your website or mobile app, it’s tempting to simply pass it on to your developers.
But website accessibility isn’t just about writing clean code and markup. Every individual involved with the creation of a website has a role to play — and if you’re assigning the work to one team, you need to rethink your strategy.
Digital accessibility begins with design
Web designers make decisions about the content’s layout, color palette, font set, and user interface. Even with clean markup, a poor layout may not be accessible for users with disabilities.
One of the most common myths about accessibility is that accessible websites are bland, boring, and ugly. That’s not the case: Many accessibility-first websites have visually engaging content. When designers understand the goals of accessibility, they’re empowered to create better products that work well for everyone.
Designers can build for accessibility in various ways:
- Ensure that text maintains sufficient contrast with its background. Learn about the basics and importance of color contrast for web accessibility.
- Provide clear, consistent navigation options.
- Create designs that adjust to different viewport sizes without losing information or functionality (in other words, content must reflow).
- Don’t use color alone to convey information. For example, advising users to “click the red button" creates unnecessary confusion for those that cannot perceive color.
- Include accessible alternatives for images, graphs, and other visual media.
When designers think about users with disabilities from day one, they create better content. They can also reduce the workload for developers and content creators.
Content writers must understand the basics of web accessibility
Every website needs high-quality, clearly written content. Content writers can promote accessibility by following some simple guidelines — and in the process, they can write more effectively.
Some quick tips to keep in mind:
- Use HTML headings and other semantic markup to group related content.
- Where appropriate, choose inclusive stock photos that accurately represent people with disabilities.
- Explain the meaning of acronyms, initialisms, and jargon (industry-specific terms that may not be meaningful to a wide audience).
- Discuss the experiences of users with disabilities and ask for feedback.
- Write captions and transcripts for podcasts and videos.
- Write accurate alternative text (also called alt text) for images, graphs, and other media.
When teams share the work, the benefits of accessibility grow
Accessibility is a shared set of priorities. If you build a team that values real-world users, everyone wins — and the “work" of accessibility integrates seamlessly into your development strategy.
The best approach is to start early. When designing a website, mobile app, or other digital product, incorporate user experience personas with disabilities and ask questions about how each decision will affect your audience.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can help you test your content throughout design and development. By introducing the core principles of WCAG, you can create an inclusive strategy without assigning accessibility compliance to a single person or team.
An accessibility-first mindset leads to a host of benefits:
- Accessible websites tend to have cleaner code, which lowers the long-term costs of development.
- Accessible websites are more engaging for every type of user, including those with situational and temporary disabilities and people who don’t live with disabilities.
- More than 1 billion people worldwide live with disabilities. By creating an accessible website, you can significantly expand your audience.
- The best practices of inclusive design overlap with the best practices of search engine optimization (SEO), allowing more people to find your website.
To learn more about these benefits, read: The Business Case for an Accessible Website.
And finally, if you need guidance for a web accessibility initiative, we’re here to help. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility provides self-paced training, on-site training, WCAG conformance audits, and a variety of other resources for sustainable digital compliance. Send us a message to get started.