6 Web Accessibility Tips To Achieve An Inclusive Design
Accessibility is a human right. This is why most physical services and stores are required to be made accessible to those with impaired mobility, hearing, and vision. However, accessibility isn’t limited to the physical world. It has now become an important feature in the virtual world with designers now implementing an inclusive and accessible design to websites.
Inclusive Design: Top Accessibility Strategies
Inclusive and accessibility design are sometimes used interchangeably. These are two areas that go hand in hand, just like how most designers talk about UI and UX. However, there’s a significant distinction between them that every designer should understand.
In the simplest explanation, an inclusive design is making sure that no concerns or needs are overlooked in your web design. Accessibility, on the other hand, is the tactics or strategies you use in order to accomplish that.
Here’s a list of accessibility tips in achieving an inclusive design:
Invest In User Research
The first thing you need to do is to invest your resources in user research. Assumptions in web designs can be dangerous, and in terms of accessibility, it’s quite difficult to understand a user need that you’ve never experienced yourself.
So, if you want to ensure your design is inclusive of people with hearing impairment, you need to engage members of that user group and research their needs. And if you’re working for a client who doesn’t see the need for such, then explain its importance and how it can benefit their results.
Pick An Accessibility-Supported Content Management System
You got a lot of options for a content management system (CMS) to build a website. However, you need a CMS that supports accessibility features, including WordPress and Drupal.
You also want to make sure the theme or template you choose offers accessibility features. You can consult the documentation of the theme for notes on accessibility and in creating accessible layouts and content for the theme. You can follow the same guidelines when choosing plugins, widgets, and modules.
Simplify The Language
In terms of written words, there’s a huge variety of considerations you need to keep in mind to design an inclusive experience. Here are some of them:
- Typography (affects the visually-impaired users)
- Word simplicity (affects those with reading difficulties)
- Consistency (affect the cognitively disabled users)
Of course, there’s also the suboptimal design affecting those who aren’t disabled. So, how do you simplify the wordy part of websites? You can align text to the right or left only. Consider enforcing line spacing and paragraph spacing of at least 1.5x size. Paragraph width should be no more than 80 characters. Also, consider underlining links for an added visual contrast.
To reduce cognitive load, you need to use simple language and logically structured content using clear headings. You should also ensure link texts are clearly described and use matching URLs with an identical link text. Also, if you’re using abbreviations, make sure to define them upon the first use.
Be Attentive With Color
Red-green color deficiency is the most common color deficiency, affecting about 8% of the population. However, using only colors like these can prevent other individuals from understanding your message. Meanwhile, other users with disabilities, especially those with learning disabilities, can greatly benefit from color in order to distinguish and organize your web content.
To satisfy both groups, you need to carefully use color and be sure to use other casual indicators such as question marks or asterisks. Also, you need to distinguish content blocks from one another with visual separation such as borders or whitespace.
You can also use tools to help evaluate color contrast. This should help in making your web page be visually appealing and usable to those with color blindness or low vision.
Help Fix Mistakes
A mistake is often a result of confusion, particularly when a user doesn’t know what they did wrong or how to fix it. Mistakes are common and inevitable, which is why it’s important to help users realize and fix them.
Perhaps, the most common scenario where a user makes mistake is filling out a web form. It can be a result of various disabilities such as a cognitive disability that makes it difficult for the user to understand what’s asked or motor disability that causes incorrect data input.
In order to reduce form errors, you can add form labels that describe what needs to be in the fields. You also need to add a placeholder to provide an example of the acceptable input. Also, you can allow autocomplete and autofill to reduce typing requirements for those with mobility issues.
In terms of helping users fix errors, you can program the form to display errors clearly in real-time. Also, allow the user to verify their input before submission.
Support Keyboard Navigation
Keyboard accessibility is a major player for website accessibility. For users who are visually impaired or with motor disabilities, including those with repetitive stress injuries, using a trackpad or mouse can be problematic. This means the keyboard can be their primary means of navigating a site.
Users should be able to access content via the keyboard by pressing the arrow or tab keys. Thus, the tab order should match the visual order. This way, keyboard-only users can logically navigate through the website content.
For the long pages and content, you can break it up with jump lists or anchor links, so that keyboard-only users can skip the irrelevant portions of the page and go directly to the content they want.
For pages with multiple sub-items and levels, the menus should be arranged in a way it can be accessed with a keyboard. Don’t use elements that only activate when a mouse is hovered over the item as screen readers or keyboard-only users won’t be able to activate them.
When designing for your website, you have the responsibility to ensure everyone can use what you create. That’s what accessibility is all about. By following the above tips, you can help create a better experience for everyone.