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10 Easy Steps to a More Accessible Website

Creating an accessible website is not just a good practice; it’s a necessity. Paying attention to accessibility ensures that everyone, regardless of abilities or disabilities, can navigate and engage with your content effectively.

Accessibility is a huge topic, but here’s 10 fairly easy points to consider for a more accessible website – or any digital content!

1. Clear Content: Headings, Structure, and Readability

If you’re going to the effort to create content, you want people to be able to read it! Using headings correctly helps users to navigate your content more effectively – whether they’re visually scanning, or using a screen reader – it allows people to get an overview of your content, and navigate to any particular sections that capture their interest.

Headings, images, and other formatting also help to break the page up visually – while some people can absorb unbroken walls of text, a lot of people can’t, and even more people won’t. Shorter paragraphs, suitably-sized typography, easy-to-read fonts, and effective use of white space makes your content much less overwhelming, and easier to read – so people are more likely to!

The 'Clear Content' section text, minus all formatting, with text justified into a block of text. It ends "Which is easier to read?"

2. Be Considerate when Choosing Colours

People can’t read/do what they can’t see! Far too often, I see people designing with poor colour contrast, and wondering why they don’t want people to be able to see things?!? Now obviously, it’s not intentional, but when you’re familiar with your own website/content, you know what everything is… but other people don’t!

Ensuring you have sufficient contrast in the colour combinations you use (whether that’s text, buttons, or other graphic elements) means that people can see the things you put so much effort into! This not only helps folks with low vision, but it also people using screens in a bright environment (like outdoors), or in low-light environments, like using night-mode filters late at night.

This Colour Contrast Checker offers a great visual example of your colour combos, and Adobe Color and Coolors both allow you to check colour contrast and check how your chosen colour palettes perform for colour-blind users.

3. Accessible Websites Use Responsive Design

So we all know that responsive design is important to accommodate people using different devices (eg computers vs phones vs tablets), but did you also know that it’s a key factor in an accessible website? Even though I’m sure your text is a decent size (ideally at least 16pt), some users will increase the text size in their browser to make it easier to read.

Usually, if a website is suitably-responsive to look good on all screen sizes (i.e. not just a computer and a mobile, but tablets, and in-between sizes as well), there’s a good chance it’ll work out, but it’s worth testing you website at various levels of zoom and various font sizes to ensure it’s going to respond to everyone’s needs!

A responsive view of Solstice Candles website, showing various pages on a large desktop screen, laptop, tablet, and mobile

4. Multimedia Content: Alternatives & Controls

Media accessibility is a huge topic in itself, but here are the big things to consider:

Audio & Video Content Alternatives

Do you have content that delivers its info via audio? Make sure there’s an alternative! Video content should have clear, accessible captions, and transcripts should be available for audio content (and ideally for video content as well). This benefits people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, have auditory processing issues (like many Neurodivergent users), or are watching your content in an environment where they can’t have audio on. If you don’t have captions or transcripts available, you’re excluding a huge portion of your audience.

Please remember that captions with inefficient colour contrast, and dynamic captions (which highlight words as you speak them, or only show short snippets of text at a time) are not accessible, and not only don’t help a lot of the folks who need them, but also negatively impact folks with motion-sensitivities.

A close-up photo of a remote control, showing the video controls, and focused on the Subtitle button

Accessible Media Controls

All media on your website should be user-controllable, including by keyboard users. Did you know that an auto-scrolling slideshow or announcement bar can trap a screen-reader? Did you know that sudden, unexpected audio can trigger a fight-or-flight response? If you’re including slideshows, video, or audio content in your website, let the user determine if/when they want to interact with them.

5. Images & Alt Text

Alt text provides alternative information for folks who can’t access your images visually – including users with low vision, poor internet, or text-only browsers (also, search engines). Writing good alt text enables these users to understand the images you’ve used, and not miss out on the information they provide.

6. Descriptive Link Text

Another common website/copy faux pas is a lack of descriptive link text. “Read more”, “click here”, “here”. Both screen readers and sighted users will skim through the links on a page, and all too often, we’ll find a string of meaningless phrases that tell us nothing about the link we’re (apparently) clicking. Link text should describe the purpose or target of the link.

7. Seamless Navigation: Keyboard and Focus States

An accessible website can be navigated easily by all users! Create a seamless browsing experience by ensuring your website is easily navigable using keyboards. Implementing clear focus states for interactive elements not only aids keyboard users but enhances accessibility for all.

Double check: Can you easily navigate your website using just a keyboard? Can you complete forms, and purchase items? Is it easy to see what item is in focus?

A screenshot of this website's homepage, clearly showing the keyboard focus on 'Web Design' in the menu. The text is orange (unlike the other menu items, which are white), and it's outlined by a white box.

8. Are Your Forms Accessible?

Forms are another item that are often overlooked when considering website accessibility.

  • Is it clear what information each section is asking for?
  • Is it clear which fields are and aren’t required?
  • Do you require the user to enter a phone number? What about if they can’t communicate via phone call (e.g. folks who are Deaf/HOH, have auditory processing issues, or don’t communicate verbally)?
  • Can you complete and submit the form using only a keyboard? Can you navigate forwards and backwards?
  • If there’s an error, is it clear where and what the error is, and what the user needs to do to fix it?

9. Beware of Accessibility Overlays

Accessibility overlays might sound great – “install this plug-in for an instantly accessible website!” – but in practice, accessibility overlays often do more harm than good. Many accessibility overlays override or interfere with settings and software that disabled users already have in place, which means they’re actually making your website less accessible.

They also don’t tend to fix any of the issues that might already be present, and instead lull you into a false sense of accessibility. Feedback from the disability & accessibility community is clear: ditch the overlays, and focus on building your website correctly instead.

10. Use Inclusive Language

There’s no point in having a technically-accessible website if you then alienate your disabled users by using ableist language. Unfortunately, ableist language is particularly insidious, and far too common within business culture. This includes things like dictating to other people how they best learn/consume content (“Make sure to close all your other windows to watch this video!”), and considering how harmful toxic positivity can be (no, we don’t all have the same 24 hours in a day!).

Choose words and phrases that respect diverse experiences and contribute to a more inclusive online environment.

A woman with glasses sitting in a wheelchair using a laptop, an example of a user who might need an accessible website.

Estimates vary, but somewhere between 20-50% of internet users are disabled or have digital accessibility needs, and we want your products and services! As a business, your goal is to many money, but if your website is inaccessible, we can’t give you our money, and we’ll take it elsewhere – and that’s a huge number or potential clients/customers to be turning away!

Creating an accessible website (and accessible content in general) is an ongoing process. No website is going to be perfect, but you can continually improve by taking small, impactful steps, regularly testing your site with accessibility tools, and (ideally) seeking feedback from users with disabilities. This will not only enhance the inclusivity of your website for disabled users, but everyone.

If improving accessibility is on your list, but it all feels a little overwhelming – I can help! As a multiply-disabled designer, digital accessibility is a huge passion of mine. In addition to it being a core factor in all of my branding and web design, I can also help improve the accessibility of your existing website – or your business in general! You can schedule a Discovery Chat to discuss how I can help, or book a consultation call over on my Bookings page.

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