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Why Do I Need An Accessible Website?

An accessible website isn’t just required by law, it’s simply the right thing to do. But an accessible online presence is also good for your business’s bottom line. Roughly 26% of adults in the US report having a disability that could affect how they interact with your website and social media. Providing an accessible online experience can mean the difference between winning new customers or losing out to your competition.

Business owners know that their store, restaurant, or office needs to comply with requirements that make it accessible to people with disabilities. But, did you know that your digital presence needs to be accessible too? It’s not just state and government websites that need to keep accessibility in mind. All businesses that are open to the public need to make sure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities as a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Even with the ADA requirements, and year over year increases in website-related accessibility lawsuits, most websites have components that are inaccessible to people with disabilities. In fact, a study of one million website homepages found 50,829,406 distinct accessibility errors! That’s an average of 50.8 errors per page. This article will go through the most common ways your digital presence may be inaccessible to people with disabilities, and how to fix it!

What Are The ADA Requirements?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits any discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. This includes websites for businesses that are open to the public.

The ADA states, “An inaccessible website can exclude people just as much as steps at an entrance to a physical location.” Ensuring your website is accessible means that people with disabilities can access all of the same information as those without disabilities.

How Do People With Disabilities Use The Internet?

A person with visual impairment may use a screen reader, a software that reads out loud the text that appears on the screen. People who have hearing impairments may use closed captions, and people with physical disabilities may use software that allows them to control their computer through verbal commands or arrow keys. Website accessibility ensures that your website allows these people to access the same information as someone without disabilities.

Web Accessibility Boosts Businesses

Working to make your website more accessible is simply the right thing to do, but just in case you need any more convincing, here’s a few facts.

What Are Common Website Accessibility Mistakes?

Website accessibility can sound daunting, but it usually boils down to these (very fixable) mistakes. 

  • Text and Background Contrast – For people with vision impairments, it’s critical to have high contrast text. Light colored text on a dark background, or dark text on a light background makes the text easier to read. Low contrast text is the most common website accessibility mistake
  • Image Alt Text. Every image on your website needs a description so screen readers can state what is in the image. These image descriptions are called “alt text” and should be used to succinctly describe what is in the image, not to add a jumble of keywords for SEO. 
  • Descriptive Page Titles – The title of the page should accurately reflect the content of the page. Older websites that have changed content over the years can miss this. It’s also tempting to keyword stuff page titles for SEO purposes, but this is also an accessibility mistake. 
  • Descriptive Text Links. Whenever you’re linking to text online, make sure to link words that make sense for the destination of the link. Avoid linking to words like “click here”. Take a look at this blog post, all links are on text that describes the content of the link.
  • Heading Structure. Like chapters in a book, headings should go in order. This means that when you’re building pages it should go from H1 down, don’t start with a lower heading then bounce back up to a higher heading. 
  • Clear Navigation. Your navigation should be easy to use. Overly busy navigation is hard to use for anyone, but it can be impossible for some software to navigate. Avoid linking to too many pages, or having too many drop down menus. Also, make sure it’s easy to search for content on your website – don’t hide the search feature. 
  • Avoid Mouse-Only Navigation. Similarly, your website should make it possible for voice-activated software to navigate. Mouse-only navigation makes it impossible for these softwares to access your menu or click links. 
  • Avoid Giving Information Through Color Alone. People with colorblindness may not be able to tell the difference between colors on your website. Using color alone to indicate information means this information is not accessible.

How Can I Test My Website For Accessibility?

There are many different ways to check if your website is accessible for users with disabilities. But most resources don’t explain how to make these updates. That’s why we’re offering free accessibility audits! The team at Get Online NOLA will run your accessibility audit for free, and give you an accessibility to-do list for your site.

Does My Social Media Need To Be Accessible Too?

Your digital presence isn’t limited to your website. Your social media presence needs to be accessible too. While you are limited by the tools provided by each social media platform there are still many things you can do to make your account as accessible as possible. Many of these will look familiar to the website accessibility mistakes described above.

Social Media Accessibility Checklist

  • Use Alt Text or Image Descriptions. Whenever you’re using an image online, make sure you use the alt text function (this can be easily found on Instagram) or simply describe the image in your caption. 
  • Captions and Descriptions on Videos. Always allow (and check for accuracy!) captions on videos. Not only does this benefit the hearing impaired, but many people simply do not turn on the volume when scrolling social media. When possible add a video description.
  • Use Emojis With Care. We all love an emoji now and then but they can be confusing for screen readers to read. Only use emojis when necessary, don’t use an emoji alone to convey information, and don’t use emojis as bullet points. 
  • Keep Color In Mind. When using text on images or graphics on social media, make sure they’re high contrast, and don’t use color alone to convey information. 
  • Capitalize your Hashtags. One little way we can all make text on social media easier to read is by capitalizing the first letter of each word in a hashtag. #AccessibilityIsKey

This great blog post from Hootsuite explains how to add alt text, captions, and video descriptions on all major social media sites.

Making your website accessible for all users is key to making the web more accessible for everyone! Get Online NOLA is excited to help you make your site easier to use for people with disabilities. Contact us today for a free accessibility audit!

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