Ensuring that your website is accessible is important for several reasons. First and foremost, confirming that people with disabilities can use your site is simply the right thing to do. We all owe it to one another to do what’s within our power to make life a little easier for other people.
Website accessibility is also essential from a business perspective. If users can’t navigate your website easily and find the information they’re looking for or take the actions they want to take, they’re very likely to leave your site, visit another, and become someone else’s customer.
But how do you know if your site is fully accessible? Fortunately, there are both manual and automated tests you can perform to determine whether your website can be used by people of all abilities.
Simple Manual Accessibility Tests You Can Perform
When you’re in the process of creating or enhancing your website, there are several steps you can take to assess its accessibility. They include:
- Check keyboard navigation. Can visitors get around your site using only a keyboard? For instance, if you’re at the top of a page and start tabbing, can you get to every link or button on that page?
- Assess highlighting. When you tab from item to item on a page, is each field, link, tab, etc. highlighted and easy to see?
- Evaluate color contrast. Are you using a color scheme that provides enough contrast that text and objects stand out and can be seen?
- Check screen reader compatibility. Screen readers render text as speech or braille output. Is your website designed to interact with them?
- Evaluate layout. Every website visitor relies on information being presented in a logical, orderly way. Does your website meet that requirement? For instance, are there different headers for each level of information, and are they used correctly?
- Ensure proper and complete labeling. Each object on your website should be identified. Does every field or other item on the page you’re assessing have an appropriate label?
- Check multimedia operability. Visitors should be able to pause or stop videos or animations easily and intuitively. Is that the case on your site?
- Confirm closed captioning and transcripts are available. Any videos embedded on your site should be closed-captioned and there should be written transcripts for audio elements. Are those assistive measures in place?
- Check for alt text. Alt text is used by screen readers to describe items like images. Does your website have alt text for every element?
These are just some of the website accessibility evaluation steps you should take. But going through this checklist can give you a general understanding of how accessible your site is and where you need to focus your attention to make it even more so.
There are also several website accessibility testing tools you can use to further fine-tune your site.
Automated Accessibility Testing
After doing an initial, manual assessment of your website’s accessibility, it’s a good idea then to use automated testing tools to perform a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of your site. The Wave web accessibility evaluation tool is one example. Its ability to check site characteristics quickly and efficiently can be very helpful.
Tools like WebAIM can also be valuable in assessing aspects of a website that are subjective and difficult to assess manually—like color contrast.
More Information on Website Accessibility
A great resource for anyone tasked with designing a fully accessible website or confirming that an existing site is accessible is W3G.
W3G is the World Wide Web Consortium—the main international standards organization for the internet. Its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explain in detail how to make web content accessible to people with disabilities.
It takes time and effort to ensure that a website continually meets accessibility guidelines, but the result is a user-friendly site that’s welcoming to all visitors and that makes a positive statement about your company.