Is your website optimized for visitors with disabilities?

9 MINS Team

Is your business website easily accessible to people with disability? Can visually-impaired web visitors use a screen reader to hear what’s on your site? Can hard of hearing individuals turn on closed captions or find transcripts of your auditory content? Can disabled users navigate their way around your page?

People with disabilities represent the largest minority group that any of us could join at any time. Even beyond the possibility of a life-changing accident or medical event, aging makes it likely that all of us may someday be affected by the loss of our vision, hearing or mobility.

Unfortunately, the internet is still full of barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully using its content, so this article is here to help you create an inclusive online environment for disabled users.

Understanding Disabilities and Web Accessibility

Web accessibility designs and develops websites that provides equal access and usability for everyone. It aims to create an inclusive digital environment where everyone, especially people with disabilities can navigate, interact, and consume online content without barriers.

Most of the disabilities it tries to address include:

  1. Visual impairments: Includes conditions such as blindness, low vision, and color blindness, which affect a person’s ability to see or perceive visual content.

  2. Hearing impairments: Includes conditions such as deafness or difficulty hearing, requiring alternative methods of accessing auditory content.

  3. Motor impairments: Includes conditions like paralysis, muscular dystrophy, or arthritis, affecting a person’s ability to control their movements and interact with digital devices.

  4. Cognitive impairments: Encompasses a range of conditions, including learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and memory disorders, which may affect information processing, comprehension, and problem-solving abilities.

As more of our important daily activities go online, it’s crucial that everyone gets the same access to the internet. That’s why many countries enacted laws and regulations that urges for website accessibility.

For example, in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act establish legal requirements for accessibility in public and government websites. Meanwhile, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are globally recognized standards that provide guidelines and best practices for website accessibility.

As a website owner, you need to step up in order to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and provide equal access to your online content.

5 Reasons Why Your Website Needs to Be Accessible

Expanded User Base and Increased Engagement – It’s a numbers game: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in four U.S. adults — or as many as 61 million Americans — have a disability that affects their engagement with major life activities. If your website is inaccessible, you might be unintentionally slamming the door on millions of valuable prospective customers.

In contrast, making your website accessible opens your business or organization to a larger user base. When your website works for people with visual, auditory or other impairments, you improve your conversion rates by helping them engage with your site, contact you for more information or directly purchase your products and services

Improved User Experience – Accessible websites benefit all users, not just those with disabilities. When your disabled audiences are accommodated, your non-disabled visitors have their user experience improved as well. Making your website accessible enhances navigation for everyone. It also becomes more readable and over all useable, which results everyone’s convenience.

Legal Compliance – Many countries have laws and regulations that require websites to be accessible for people with disabilities. This means you’re legally required to follow guidelines and create an accessible website to avoid potential issues down the line like fines or lawsuits.

For example, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires the state and local governments to make their informational assets — including websites — accessible to those with disabilities. This also extends to local government services and those who do business with federal agencies.

Meanwhile, Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability-based discrimination on spaces for public accommodation. While it doesn’t specifically mention the internet, it also doesn’t expressly limit public accommodations itself to physical locations, so being ADA compliant is a best practice.

Enhanced SEO – Search engines value accessibility features, such as proper headings, descriptive alternative text for images, and structured content. These are accessibility practices that can improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) rankings when implemented, so you’re hitting two birds with one stone.

An accessible website also leads to better organic traffic as more people prefer websites that can cater their needs. The more inclusive your website’s accessibility is, the more people visit your site and the higher your organic ranking becomes.

Positive Brand Image and Customer Relations – Nowadays, customers are conscious about whether the brands stand up for the issues they care about. They don’t want to just buy from impersonal companies, they want to support brands that cares for them.

Having web accessibility initiative demonstrates social responsibility as well as a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. By making your website accessible, you contribute to a more inclusive society, where everyone has equal access to digital information and services.

It shows that you value your customers to provide equal opportunities for all users, improving your brand image and your customer relations.

Key Considerations for Optimizing Website Accessibility

Now you know why it’s important for web pages on your website to be accessible, it’s time to make a website that meets website accessibility requirements. Here are some general tips to follow; for more detailed guidance, check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Accessibility for the Visually-Impaired

What would your website look like if you couldn’t see it?

Your site must be compatible with screen readers, which convert text into speech so visually impaired users can hear what they cannot see. This is particularly important for website forms, which should be labeled as such so they are readily accessible to screen readers. Structure your HTML properly, using appropriate headings, providing descriptive link text, and avoiding unnecessary or ambiguous content.

You must also specify what language your site is written in within the header code so that text readers can work with the correct language. Add descriptive alt text to images and videos so that people who cannot see that content can hear a description of those objects.

Bear in mind that visual impairment extends well beyond total vision loss. Look at your website through the eyes of someone with age-related vision loss or difficulty reading small text. Use a large, easy-to-read font, allow zoom on mobile devices and make sure your text is resizable. It’s also preferable to use a background color that contrasts with your text color to improve readability.

To go a step further, be sensitive to color vision when choosing contrasting colors; colorblindness may not be a recognized disability, but it’s a common, often-overlooked visual difference

Accessibility for the Hearing-Impaired

Does your site include videos with narration or sound? What about podcasts or voiceover descriptions?

Make sure your content is available to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing closed captioning or text transcripts. Alt text for video and audio files also helps hearing-impaired users read any content’s description they cannot hear. Additionally, captions can benefit other users in noisy environments or situations where audio cannot be played aloud.

Finally, incorporating visual cues in the form of icons or symbols alongside audio notifications to ensure that people can’t hear the audio alerts can still receive important information.

Accessibility for Motor Impairments

Many people with motor impairments rely on keyboards or alternative input devices to navigate websites so you should avoid relying solely on mouse-based interactions.

Provide alternative ways to interact with your website, such as using keyboard shortcuts or providing accessible buttons or links for actions. This allows users to perform essential functions without requiring precise mouse movements, making your website more inclusive and user-friendly. Example: users should be able to navigate through the website’s elements in a predictable order using the “Tab” key.

People with motor impairments also use different devices with varying screen sizes. Knowing this, your website should function well on other devices, consider touch-friendly elements, and have appropriate spacing. This your visitors with motor impairments use your website with the devices best suited to their needs.

Accessibility for Cognitive Impairments

Cognitive impairments can affect how a person processes and comprehends information. You want to avoid making your website difficult to read or navigate.

Organize your content with easy-to-navigate menus, headings, and subheading and avoid cluttered layouts that can overwhelm users. You don’t need unnecessary distractions, such as excessive animations, flashing lights, or auto-playing media.

Finally, choose simple and concise language in short sentences for your website’s content. Consider providing explanations or tooltips for unfamiliar items as well as visual cues to help users better understand the website’s functionality.

Assistive Technologies and Compatibility

Familiarize yourself with common assistive technology, devices and software that individuals with disabilities may use to access your website. These include screen readers, magnifiers, speech recognition software, alternative input devices, and more.

Test your website’s compatibility with various assistive technologies. Use these tools and interact with your website as users with disabilities would. This testing phase lets you identify and address any accessibility barriers, or issues that may hinder accessibility.

How to Implementing Web Accessibility Best Practices?

Conducting an accessibility audit – An accessibility audit evaluates your website’s compliance with accessibility standards. When you conduct an audit, you’ll involve manual reviews, automated testing tools, and user testing with individuals with disabilities. It provides you a baseline of your website’s full web accessibility standards so you can make necessary improvements.

Adopting a accessible design and development techniques – It’s essential to follow accessible design and development practices as you create your website. This includes:

  • using semantic HTML markup
  • providing proper labels and descriptions for interactive elements
  • ensuring color contrast
  • using accessible forms and error messaging
  • implementing responsive design principles.

Constantly testing for accessibility compliance – You can use automated accessibility testing tools to scan your website for common accessibility issues.

These tools can identify problems such as missing alt text, improper heading structure, or inaccessible forms. Additionally, you should conduct manual tests on your assistive technologies to evaluate the user experience for individuals with disabilities. This way, you can address accessibility issues promptly and maintain compliance over time.

Training and educating content creators and developers – Training and educating your content creators and developers on web accessibility best practices is essential for long-term accessibility success.

Provide them with resources, guidelines, and training sessions on creating accessible content, using accessible design techniques, and understanding the needs of users with disabilities. Raise awareness and foster a culture of accessibility within your organization to consider accessibility on your website development and content creation processes.

Empower Your Users With an Accessible Website

Website accessibility ensures inclusivity and equal access for individuals with disabilities.

Prioritize accessibility in your web design and development processes to contribute to creating a more inclusive and accessible online landscape. By embracing website accessibility, you empower people with disabilities, widen your audience, and enhance user engagement.

Ready to learn more about improving your website’s accessibility? Take advantage of free online courses from the World Wide Web Consortium, including their “Introduction to Web Accessibility” class. And if you need any assistance with website design or building your website, the team at is always ready to help.

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