What is Accessibility?
To get started, why should you make your website accessible? Surely all you need is to list the information or products/services on your website. But if people cannot find what they want on your site or if your website is difficult to view, they may leave your site never to return. Another way to say that is “It is easy to get someone to come to your website the first time. Only a well-designed site encourages them to come back often. What determines whether they come back? Obviously, content is important, but an equally important factor is your site’s accessibility. What does that mean? Have you considered these factors in your site design?
- How do others perceive your website when they visit it? Do they have trouble viewing the content or hearing any audio? Is it cluttered? Are the fonts and colors clear?
- Is your website understandable? Do they get the message you intended? Is the purpose of the links and actions on your website clear? Does the information follow a logical reading order or does it jump around the page or between pages?
- Can they navigate your website? How do they get from one page or topic to another? Do you use menus, links, or some other method to navigate your pages?
- Even if they know where the information they want can be found in your website, how easy is it for them to interact with your website to get to that information? Do you minimize the number of links to any topic? Do you require that they use a mouse, the keyboard, or even voice to interact with your site?
The more difficult your site makes any of these considerations, the more likely they will leave your site to find the information somewhere else. If you are selling a product or service, that translates into lost revenue. But even for a personal site, if your site is not accessible, visitors may decide that it is not interesting enough for them to spend time there.
If it is Accessible to Me, Is That Not Good Enough?
Unfortunately, not! One of the surprising things I have learned is that nearly 60 million Americans have at least one form of disability that could make access to your website a challenge. Furthermore, this affects nearly a third of all American households. This includes the more obvious disabilities such as vision problems which range from color perception issues to low or no vision at all. Auditory disabilities range from no hearing to limited hearing and can affect the enjoyment of videos and podcasts. Animated GIFs and video frame rates can cause problems with people with cognitive and neurological disabilities. Finally, physical disabilities can prevent someone from effectively using a mouse to navigate through your site or making selections via links. Trying to think how those with disabilities might interact with your websites is a challenge at first, but one that gets easier over time.
The bottom line is that all these issues are solvable. Your only choice is whether you want to solve them after you built your website or while you create the content. Trust my experience when I say that it is far easier to address these issues while creating the content. Coming back after the content is posted is one of the reasons why many people feel that making a website accessible is difficult. In fact, as I cover the various accessibility topics in this blog, I offer ways to consider accessibility as you create the content so that it becomes second nature in your creative process, not an afterthought to your already published content.
As I develop posts for this site, I will associate each post with the type of disability that it addresses. Of course, some posts may span multiple disabilities or may even be associated more with the legal aspects of making your site accessible. However, I suggest that you do not get bogged down in the legal aspects of ADA, but rather think of these recommendations as ways to help make your web content available to everyone which after all is the right thing to do.