Designing for Accessibility

Vordik Team

There’s a growing consciousness in the web development sphere about designing for digital accessibility. This means creating content and features that can be accessed by a diverse population of users, including those with visual, auditory, motor or cognitive challenges. Universal access to digital resources is a gateway for better education, healthcare and quality of life, so designing with these folks in mind is pretty important.

Policies like Ontario’s AODA have actually made this a requirement for certain businesses, with penalties if not taken into account. Aside from wanting to avoid these penalties, there’s absolutely no reason why a site shouldn’t be designed with accessibility in mind. It takes some extra thought and a careful approach, but there are no significant costs incurred by doing so.

As a web development company, we take this into consideration for every site we work on. Let’s look at some of the features that make a website truly accessible.

4 TIPS – website accessible

Using colour and contrast

One of the easiest ways to make a site more accessible for those with low vision or visual impairments is to increase contrast. People with visual challenges often struggle to interpret text or graphics when they’re similar in shade to the background. The WCAG 2.0 level AA, which most companies either are – or will be – required to comply with, for example, has a specific contrast ratio that needs to be met.

Another point that web development companies are mindful of is using features other than colour to indicate information. There are lots of other ways to accentuate an element – including font family, font strength or underline.

Using alternative text

Many people with low vision use a screen reader to decipher web content. Naturally, an image alone to convey information can be a problem for users requiring this kind of software. Adding a descriptive caption can be a great way to indicate to your visually impaired users (by way of their screen reader) what’s happening in an image or graphic.

Think about site navigation

People who rely on screen readers, or those who have mobility challenges and are unable to use a mouse, might find themselves navigating your site differently than other users. A screen reader, for example, will take initiative and read content the way it sees it flow, while those who can’t use a mouse might navigate entirely using the “tab” button.

To address users who navigate this way, the site’s content needs to be structured in a way that flows intuitively and predictively. This can be tested by trying to navigate a site using only a keyboard, not a mouse.

Include transcripts for video content

Those who have a hearing impairment – or who are sensitive to noise – may not be able to access videos as easily as some of us. If a site has video content, it’s a good idea to make sure it either includes captions within the video itself or an option for reading a transcript instead. The same goes for audio content.

This is also useful for users who happen to be viewing your site in an environment where they can’t have the volume on.

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Digital Accessibility – summary

If your company needs a website or mobile app built from scratch, it’s a good idea to work with a web development company that is familiar with building accessible websites and knows how the regulations apply. If you have a site built already and you’re concerned it doesn’t comply with accessibility laws, you still have options.

You can ask a web development company to perform an accessibility audit, which involves navigating your site using assistive technology and alerting you to problem areas. Based on this, you can ask your web developer to look at these and recommend changes. If you have a site that is frequently updated with content or new features, we suggest including regular audits, whether that’s someone on your team who is qualified, or an external specialist.

Designing an accessible website doesn’t have to be complicated or costly and it’s benefits are extremely wide-reaching. To learn more about how we can help your digital products comply with accessibility regulations, contact our team today and let’s talk about Digital Consulting