Website Accessibility – Is Yours Accessible?

Is your website accessible?

So, what is this accessibility thing all about? Well grab yourself a cuppa and get comfy because I’m about to tell you.

Website accessibility is making sure websites are easy to use by people with disabilities. This can include (but not limited to) deafness or hearing loss, limited movement abilities, blindness and low vision, and photosensitivity.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines web accessibility as: “Making web content available to people with disabilities in ways that are perceivable, operable and understandable.”

But what the bloody hell does that even mean? (Even I would struggle to understand that at first glance). In simple terms, it means all information on a website should be easily available to everyone, no matter what. This includes visual and audio content for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. It also includes making sure that all the buttons on a website are large enough for those with motor and dexterity issues.

Website Accessibility Guidelines & Standards

The guidelines (they’re more like rules) and standards are in place to ensure that everyone can access the content on a website. No exceptions. Website accessibility isn’t just about making your website look good; it’s also about making sure your visitors have a positive experience with your brand.

The guidelines were introduced way back in 1999 (before most of us had the internet at home) by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They don’t specify how to make websites accessible, but more, what should be considered when making them accessible. There are two main types of website accessibility guidelines:

  • Guidelines for making content on the web easily accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

  • Guidelines for designing web pages and applications so that they can be accessed by people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers.

What are the Common Types of Barriers in Websites?

A website is a powerful tool to reach out to potential customers, but often they are designed in a way that makes it difficult for people to use them. This is because of the various types of barriers that are present on websites. Some common types of barriers in websites include:

  • Poor design: Is the colour of the text easily readable on the background colour? A tool I love using for this is Coolors. You can type in your background colour and your text colour for it to give you a readability/contrast score. What about the buttons on your website? Are they large enough and far enough apart for people to use easily on smaller screens?

  • Font choices: They matter more than you might think. If the letters are too close together then that makes it bloody hard to read, even for people without a disability. There are also dyslexia friendly fonts you can use to make the font even more readable. Comic Sans is actually one of the best (but please don’t ever choose the Comic Sans font for your website!).

  • Confusing navigation: Is your menu crystal clear and easy to use? Also, if there are too many items in your navigation menu it becomes less easy to read. I bet you didn’t know your short-term memory can only hold seven items.

  • Unclear content: Is it clear at a quick glance what you do? You have under 10 seconds to grab and keep your visitor’s attention. Also, is there too much content on the page? You don’t need to ram every piece of information onto the screen. Use the white space effectively.

Does your website pass the elbow test?

There are people with disabilities (for example, people with physical limitations or cognitive disabilities) who are not able to use the internet as easily as others. The elbow test is a good way for you to check if your website is accessible (this is best done on your phone or tablet). Use your elbow to try and click the buttons or your menu items. If you’re finding it hard to do this easily, then someone with a disability will find it just as hard too. If that’s the case, then you’ve got some work to do improving your website.

Everyone should have equal access to the internet and enjoy all the benefits it offers. Even in 2023 this still isn’t the case for some websites. It is getting better but there’s probably still room for some improvement.

So there you have it. That’s what website accessibility is all about. How about your website? Is there room for improvement?

(Psst – if you want to find out then I offer a website audit service.)