How to make your website accessible
When web professionals refer to website accessibility, they are referring to how usable your website is for people with disabilities. This is an important consideration for all organisations, but particularly so for charities and community groups.
Having a website is a fantastic way of communicating with supporters and service users, but if they are colour blind, have poor eyesight or suffer from blindness, they may not be able to access your website's content.
Here are some commonly-used techniques that can help make your website more accessible.
There are various types of colour blindness that can cause colours of your site to become totally different to what you had intended. This can result in your text being indistinguishable from your background, for example.
The simplest way to solve this problem is to ensure you do not make your site dependent on colours. Where you have important information, use black text on a white background; such a colour scheme is readable by almost everyone – whether they are colour blind or not.
This relates to people who have difficulty reading or seeing, even with glasses or contact lenses. To significantly improve their accessibility to read and interact with your website, make your text and font legible – ensuring that it is simple, non-cursive and is of a size that is not too small for an average user. The Office for Disability Issues recommends Arial font at a minimum size of 14 point. If your website runs on Wordpress, you may wish to consider installing a font resizer plugin, which will enable users to increase text size to their own preference.
Blind and partially sighted people can access websites with the aid of screen readers; these programs dictate everything on your site back to the user, however, this isn't always as effective as it may first seem. For example, when you browse a website you may want to ignore navigation links, images and adverts, and focus solely on the content that is relevant to you. With a screen reader, this is not possible, as the program will read everything that is on the screen from top to bottom.
To make your website more accessible for blind and partially sighted people:
- Ensure all your images have a descriptive ALT tag (ALT tags can usually be added to images when you upload them to your website content management system). This will make it easier for the user to envisage the image. However, do not rely heavily on images on your site – for example, do not just use a picture with text as the entire webpage, as this will not be readable at all with a screen reader.
- Avoid using Flash, as screen readers cannot convert them into speech.
- Consider asking your website manager to add skiplinks at the top of the page which allow the user to skip your navigation elements and get straight to the content.
- Finally, divide your content into easily-readable chunks with the appropriate headings. This should be common practice, as people – with or without visual impairments – do not appreciate large blocks of text and prefer a clear, organised site.
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