Improving Website Accessibility for Disabled Users: 6 Tips to Remember

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In order to make sure that everyone, including people with impairments, can use and enjoy your content and services, you have to create an accessible website. Web accessibility means making your website usable for as many people as possible, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. When you focus on accessibility, you create a better experience for your users.

One of the main reasons to work hard on your accessibility and fix any existing issues you have with it is the diverse range of disabilities that users may have. These can include visual or hearing impairments, motor challenges or cognitive disabilities.

By addressing people’s needs, you ensure equal access to everyone, welcoming a broader audience and potentially increasing your visitors. In addition to that you will successfully comply with existing laws and regulations.

In this article, we will share our 6 essential steps that will help you fix accessibility problems, create a more inclusive, accessible and effective website. These tips will assist you in creating a more user-friendly online environment without excluding people from your audience.

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What does disabled users mean?

Disabled users are people who suffer from mental, physical, sensory or cognitive disorders that affect their ability to interact with digital content and online services.

These types of conditions include:

  • Visual impairments – blindness, colour blindness, low vision, or temporary visual disabilities due to trauma or injury.
  • Hearing impairments – deafness, hard of hearing or temporary hearing disability conditions.
  • Motor impairments – limited use of hands, legs, or other mobility issues.
  • Cognitive impairments – learning disabilities, memory issues, attention deficit disorder, etc.

Creating digital content that is accessible to individuals with these types of issues means making it in such a way that it is usable and understandable for people with diverse needs.

When you make an accessible website, you are enabling these parts of your users to move past the accessibility barriers and navigate, understand and interact with your web page’s content freely.

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What challenges do people with disabilities face?

There can be a variety of obstacles that people with disabilities face when accessing a website. The challenges in front of them depend on the disability they have and its severity.

Here are some common challenges for the different types of impairments:

  • Visual Impairments – blind people or people with low vision often struggle when they need to read text, view images, or navigate interfaces that rely solely on visual elements. Assistive technologies like screen readers or braille displays are what serves as a guide through the content. Websites that are not properly coded and designed and lack accessibility resources make it extremely hard and frustrating for visually impaired users to navigate and eventually lose them as an audience.
  • Hearing Impairments – deaf and hard of hearing individuals can miss out on audio content, such as videos or podcasts, if website owners and developers haven’t provided captions or transcripts. The lack of these features will limit their access to important information and services.
  • Motor Impairments – Individuals with limited mobility or dexterity find it difficult to use a mouse or a touchscreen. They most commonly depend on keyboard navigation or assistive devices, so websites need to be fully operable through keyboard commands and provide accessible input methods.
  • Cognitive impairments – dyslexia, autism, or memory issues are common cognitive disabilities that make it hard for people experiencing them to understand complex language, dense information, or intricate navigation structures. Simplified text, clear instructions, and well-organised content are what make digital interfaces accessible to them.
  • Colour Blindness – Users with colour blindness may not be able to distinguish between certain colours, or interpret colour coded information or read text with insufficient color contrast.

By implementing website accessibility for disabled users and following web content accessibility guidelines, you are taking a web accessibility initiative and showing respect and dedication to all of your users regardless of their impairments.

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How to make your website accessible for disabled users?

An accessible website is essential in order to ensure that everyone can interact with your content, regardless of their physical, mental or cognitive abilities. Accessibility includes design and functionality changes that cather to the needs of users with different types of disability issues.

By incorporating accessibility features, designs and practices on your website, you will upgrade your user experience and broaden your audience reach. Compliance with legal standards and laws should not be underestimated. By focusing on inclusivity, you create an accessible and user-friendly online environment where everybody can navigate, understand and engage with your content and services.

Here is a list of the 6 steps you must take to create an accessible website.

Provide alternative text for any non-text elements

Alternative text is one of the most important steps in creating an accessible website. It describes the content and the function of images, icons, and other visual elements and allows screen readers to provide this information to the users.

When writing an alt text, you should remember that you need to be concise but descriptive. Ensure that your description accurately represents the element’s purpose. For example, for an image of a whale, the alt text might be – “Blue whale swimming in the ocean”, while an icon for a search function may simply be explained as a “Search icon”.

All functionality on your website should be available from a keyboard

Ensuring all functionality on your website is available from keyboard navigation is a key aspect of accessibility. A lot of users with disabilities, such as the ones with motor impairments, use keyboards or assistive devices to navigate websites.

To create a fully keyboard-accessible website, you should make sure that all interactive elements can be reached by users. Provide clear focus indicators so users can clearly see which element is currently selected.

You should also not forget to check if all the interactive components can be activated using the Enter or Space keys.

Ensure text content is readable and understandable

Readable and understandable text content is a crucial step to accessibility. You can create accessible text content by using clear, concise language that is easy to understand. Avoid jargon, complex words, and long sentences that can be challenging for users with cognitive impairments or those who are not fluent in language.

Use headings, bullet points, and short paragraphs to break up text and make it easier to scan. Don’t forget to choose fonts that are legible and provide sufficient contrast between text and background colors to aid users with visual impairments.

Avoid designing content that could cause seizures

To avoid seizure-causing content on your website, particularly for users with photosensitive epilepsy, it is important to minimize the use of flashing or flickering elements on your website. Flashing content, especially at certain frequencies (between 3 and 60 flashes per second), will trigger seizures in susceptible individuals.

As a website owner or developer who aims at accessibility, you should avoid rapid animations, strobe effects, or bright, contrasting color patterns. If animations are necessary, make sure they do not flash more than three times per second and provide an option to pause or stop them.

Web pages should appear and operate in predictable ways

Web pages should appear and operate in predictable ways in order to enhance the usability and accessibility for all users. By being consistent in the design and functionality of your website you will help your users to understand how to navigate and interact with your website.

Maintain a uniform layout across pages, use familiar navigation structures and ensure all of the navigating elements, like buttons and links, behave as expected. You should also avoid unexpected changes in content or layout, such as auto-playing videos or pop-ups that disrupt the user’s experience.

Assist users in correcting or avoiding errors

The last but not least from our list. Assisting users in correcting or avoiding errors is essential for a positive user experience, especially for those with cognitive or motor impairments.

Make sure you are providing clear and descriptive error messages that explain what went wrong and how to fix it. Offer suggestions or prompts to help users correct their mistakes. You should also consider implementing features like auto-save or undo functionality to prevent data loss and minimize user frustration.

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Conclusion

By following our 6 tips and incorporating them you will significantly improve the overall user experience and expand your audience reach. Providing accessibility to everybody shows a commitment to inclusivity and equal access to information and services.

By bringing these best practices into your web design and development process, you contribute to a more accessible and equitable online environment for everybody, not just individuals with disabilities.

Frequently asked questions

Who benefits from website accessibility features?

A wide range of individuals, including those with visual impairments, hearing impairments, motor impairments, cognitive impairments, and other disabilities.

Are there legal requirements for website accessibility?

Yes, various countries have laws and regulations that require websites to meet certain accessibility standards. For example, in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act set guidelines for accessible website design.

What tools or resources can help me test my website’s accessibility?

There are several accessibility testing tools and resources available, including automated testing tools like WAVE and Axe, screen reader simulators such as NVDA and VoiceOver, and accessibility guidelines and checklists provided by organizations like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

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