With all the focus lately on disability access to physical spaces, we sometimes forget that the Internet is an often-visited place as well, and those virtual spaces also need to be accessible to people with disabilities of all kinds, both learning and physical. If you’re a person with disabilities who operates a web site about or for people with learning or physical disabilities, your goal should be to make your site as universally “accessible” as possible.
Here are some tips you can use to make your web site friendly to most people with disabilities.
1. “Alt” Tags: Have you ever hovered over an image on a web site and seen a string of words appear that describe the image? That’s an alt tag. If people are using devices for visual impairments, the computer can read these alt tags aloud so that they’ll know what’s in the picture on the screen. Use alt tags religiously and take care to be accurate in your descriptions.
2. Subtitles and Transcripts: If you’ve included videos on your website, provide subtitles and transcripts of the video content so that people with hearing impairments can follow along as well.
3. Use Periods in Abbreviations: When you type abbreviations or acronyms, use periods after each letter. For example, if you’re talking about the Federal Bureau of Investigation, type “F.B.I.,” not “FBI.” The difference is that a text-to-speech program will read “F.B.I.” the way it’s intended, but will read “FBI” as a single word rather than three letters.
4. Reword “Click Here.” When you include embedded links in your website, don’t use the tired cliché “click here.” Instead, describe the link by saying, “Check out this disability-friendly tip site,” or some other descriptor of the page to which you are linking.
5. Practice Good Color Choice: Like the tip above, this is just best practice for any web site. Choose colors that are not excessively bright or overwhelming. Avoid using green, blue, and yellow next to one another, as this can be very problematic for users who are colorblind. In general, stick to black text on a white background if possible.
6. Use Large Clickable Areas: The smaller your clickable area is, the harder it is for some users to actually click them. This becomes especially true in the era of touch-screen devices. Give your links a broader clickable range to make them easier to target.
7. Apply the “KISS” Principle. “Keep It Simple, Sweetie.” When you’re typing copy, keep paragraphs short. Don’t use complicated words or jargon, and stick to journalistic-style text. Write simply and conversationally to assure the widest possible audience will understand everything you have to say.
8. Accessibility Guides Help: Sitemaps—especially those that lay out options for disability accessibility—are always useful. Think about including a guide with options that users can put into play on their home computers, too. Promote the accessibility guides on your site—it will increase your hits.
9. Understand Your Users’ Needs: You can’t cover every disability issue with 100% accuracy. It’s virtually impossible. What you want to do, however, is target the people who will most likely use your site and make it as accessible as possible to those folks. Learn how assistive technology works, and implement it as best you can.
With a more universally accessible the web site, visits and sales can grow in number every day. Here’s a video describing four main requirements for making a web site accessible to all. What’s your biggest pet peeve with most web sites?