Digital Accessibility Best Practices
Follow these guiding principles to make your websites, social media, digital content, emails, and electronic documents more accessible for all your users.
Make your social media marketing more accessible to users with disabilities or impairments by following these Best Practices for Social Media Accessibility.
Make your email marketing campaigns more accessible to users with disabilities or impairments by following these Best Practices for Email Accessibility.
Accessible Web Design Best Practices
1. Keep Designs Simple
The more complex a design, the more difficult it is for all visitors to navigate, regardless of ability. Complexity makes it especially difficult for people with disabilities to access content using assistive technologies. Accessible website design is rooted in simplicity. This also improves SEO, because search engines like Google give higher rankings to fast loading websites with simple, clean user pathways.
2. Maintain Proper Color Contrast Ratios
People who are visually impaired struggle when reading text against certain background colors due to low contrast. The same goes for buttons and forms. Making sure that all text is large enough, and has sufficient contrast to stand out against its background, is imperative.
3. Use Easily Recognizable Focus States
Focus states are colored outlines that show up around links, inputs, and buttons, letting users know these elements can be navigated using the keyboard. They make it easier for those with limited mobility––or anyone who simply prefers keyboard navigation––to identify what part of the web page they’re looking for. Links, buttons, widgets, and form fields need to stand out.
4. Design for Screen Readers
When starting any design, it’s important to think about how screen readers will affect the user experience of your page. For example, if your navigation menu is at the top of your page visually, but located at the bottom of your HTML document, the experience for keyboard users will be more cumbersome and frustrating than it will be for users who can use a mouse to point and click.
Questions about designing for web accessibility? Get in touch with our Web Design experts.
Accessible Development Best Practices
1. Audit Your Code for Digital Accessibility
Currently, 97% of the world’s top 1 million websites fail a basic web accessibility test. So unless your website falls within the 3% that pass this test, you should be auditing your code to begin the process of remediating the content on all of your website pages for accessibility. Specifically, you should audit your code for compatibility with assistive technologies commonly used by those who are disabled to navigate the internet, like screen readers.
2. Understand a Lack of Awareness is No Excuse
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is the legislation under which organizations can be sued for noncompliance, is what’s known as a “no fault” statute. Translated, this means not knowing the law does not excuse you from liability. If and when you’re sued for having a website that is not ADA compliant, your web developers will get no sympathy from the courts for not knowing their legal obligation to provide web accessibility.
3. Be Proactive to Minimize Workload and Workflow Disruption
By accounting for accessibility in the early stages of working on your website or app, you minimize your development team’s workload for maintaining ADA compliance moving forward. Alternatively, if you have an existing or website or just launched a new one, you should immediately perform an accessibility audit to get a full inventory of your issues. This will make it easier to prioritize and allocate development resources towards your accessibility remediation needs based on your team’s bandwidth.
4. Hold Software Developers Accountable for Accessibility Requirements
It should not be a secret (anymore) to app or web developers that your websites and applications need to be accessible. Accordingly, you should hold developers on your team to a higher standard and set expectations that all new (and ongoing) projects will be designed and developed to offer the required level of accessibility by default.
Questions about the accessibility of code that powers your organization’s websites or apps?
Get in touch with our Development experts.
How Accessibility Helps SEO
1. Simple User Experience (UX)
How easy is the site to navigate? Do you have to think about it? Is it easy to find what you’re looking for? A simple, intuitive user experience (UX) always put the user first. And Google has made it clear that it will give preference to sites with better usability.
2. Video Transcription/Closed Captioning
Transcripts and closed captions take the spoken content in video and audio files and present them as text. Search engines can’t watch a video or listen to an audio file, but they do index text. By providing a text version of what is being said, you increase the amount of information that search engines like Google can crawl. That boosts rankings in search.
3. Image captioning
Image captions accompany the images on your page and provide more information for search engines to index. The more information a search engine finds that provides context and relevance to your content, the better that page will perform in search.
4. Title Tags
Title tags, the descriptive tags that appear at the top of your browser and in search engine results pages, should tell those searching exactly what they can expect from your page. In other words, they should match the intent of the search. Page titles that accurately reflect the content on that page are an SEO win.
5. HTML Sitemaps
Users with visual impairments will often use HTML Sitemaps to navigate through a site because they give a useful, big picture view of the content. HTML sitemaps also give search engines a list of all the pages and the links within, which helps them find relevant content.
6. Alt Text
Unlike a caption, which can be viewed by sighted people at the bottom of an image, alt text describes an image at the code level and allows screen readers to read them aloud. Search engines look for alt text, which boosts search.
Questions about how to improve your SEO using digital accessibility? Get in touch with our SEO experts.
Web Accessibility for ADA Compliance
1. Understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
While the U.S. has no definitive legal standard for Digital Accessibility, all organizations are held accountable to the same obligations established by the ADA when it comes to their websites. This means having an inaccessible website makes you just as liable as not having accessible entry to your building, because it is not sufficiently serving the needs of users with a range of disabilities. Simply put, your lack of web accessibility opens you to lawsuits.
2. Avoid Costly ADA Lawsuits
Businesses today are quickly (and painfully) learning the fiscal cost of not having ADA-compliant websites, thanks to a swelling tide of lawsuits targeting their lack of sufficient digital accessibility that adequately serves the disabled community. To protect themselves from this ongoing and costly liability, many are taking action and updating their websites to fix common shortfalls that have been explicitly identified in court decisions emerging from these lawsuits.
3. There’s No “Quick Fix” So Focus On Planning
There’s no one-stop-shop tool out there that will scan your code, then magically identify and remediate all of your issues to become compliant with ADA and other laws that govern digital accessibility. Still, there are many ways to go about fixing these issues––some more efficient than others––so your best move at the beginning is to estimate your likely time commitment and build a plan that fits with your organization’s resources, bandwidth, and goals. (Overwhelmed with planning? Let us help you do it!)
Still have questions about digital accessibility and how to get ADA compliant?
Our Digital Accessibility Compliance experts are here to help.