As the Internet becomes more central in our daily lives, it’s increasingly important to make sure the content on the Internet is accessible to everyone. That includes people with disabilities who may have difficulties accessing the information on your website.
These types of disabilities and conditions include:
- Visual impairment, including a partial or total inability to see or perceive colour contrasts
- Hearing impairment
- Motor skills
- Photosensitive seizures
- Cognitive disabilities, such as dementia or dyslexia
From a moral and business perspective, it’s in your best interest to make your website accessible to the largest possible audience. Luckily, all of the tips and web accessibility guidelines we give you here will not only help you make your website more accessible, they’ll also improve the overall website and will go a long way toward making the user experience (UX) excellent for people with and without disabilities.
What Are Web Accessibility Standards?
Web accessibilities standards are a framework to offer a good user experience to any visitor that comes across their website. In particular, web accessibility standards are guidelines put in place by the government to encourage companies to make their websites easy to use and navigate for people with disabilities.
Why Do Web Accessibility Standards Matter?
To create a truly free and open Internet that provides value to everyone, it’s vital that all users can access and interact with websites, including any feature they may come across. In Canada, there are legal requirements companies must follow to make their website accessible to people with disabilities.
What Is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are website standards for software developers and designers to help them identify and incorporate accessible elements, functionalities and features into the websites they design and program.
As part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), public and private Ontario businesses with more than 50 employees must create or update website content to meet WCAG 2.0 Level A-AA guidelines by January 1, 2021.
What Is AODA?
Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) web accessibility standards guidelines in the United States, AODA is a law in Ontario that sets out a process for developing and enforcing accessibility standards. According to the act, designated public sector organizations, as well as businesses and non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees, must have made public websites accessible by January 1, 2020.
Moving forward, it will require certain websites to include accessible training and educational materials, videos that include captions and descriptions, feedback forms and more.
If your business doesn’t comply with AODA, it could result in fines ranging from $200 to $1,500, depending on the website and the level of non-compliance.
How to Ensure Your Website Meets Web Accessibility Standards
Making your website accessible doesn’t have to be a headache or takeaway from a beautifully designed website. There are some very basic updates you can make to your content that will look good to everyone.
Typography and Readability
To make your website easy to read, there are a couple of simple choices you can make when you’re choosing your fonts.
Stick with one or two large, legible fonts. It’s best to separate text from images or graphics. Make sure the font and background colours contrast enough that the font is easy to read.
Avoid small, elaborate or thin fonts that may be difficult to make out. Limit the use of variations in your typography, like capitalized, bold or italicized fonts. You should also avoid using text that flashes or moves around.
A website that has big blocks of text is difficult for anyone to read and navigate. Headers throughout your website are a great way to break up your content and give it structure. Not only does it help with the flow and readability of your page, but it provides clear signposts for the reader to navigate your website. It will help your readers find the information they’re looking for more easily.
Content Layout Colours and Headers
Not all forms of colour blindness are the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to making sure those with colour blindness are unaffected by your design. However, you can follow some general guidelines to improve the UX for people with colour blindness.
As a general rule of thumb, choose text colours that stand out against the background. Black text on a white background is an easy, elegant and standard way to make your text clearly visible. If you’d prefer to use other colours, make sure you use dark text against lighter backgrounds.
In terms of layout, it’s best to use small blocks of text in a decently sized font. Also, remember that white space is your friend and you can easily break up blocks of text using bullet points and headers. Pro tip: Avoid using tables unless they’re absolutely necessary.
If your website includes documents, you should also make them accessible for anyone who wants to reference or download them. You can do this by following many of the steps mentioned above, including:
- Use clear, concise language
- Structure your content using headers and bullet points
- Use lists where you can
- Tag the languages included in the document to help screen readers interpret punctuation
- Incorporate alt-text into images
Accessible Video Content
To make videos on your website as accessible as possible, consider integrating captions, transcriptions and audio descriptions into your content.
Captions should be an exact representation of what’s being said in the video and should appear when it’s being said. You don’t need to make them appear by default for everyone, but make sure viewers can easily turn on captions with a simple toggle button. It’s also helpful to include a transcription of the audio below the video screen.
A video description describes the action playing out on screen and allows visually impaired visitors to your website to enjoy the content. Anything that isn’t narrated in your video should be included in the video description to accurately communicate what can be seen in the video.
Ensure Keyboard Friendliness
Many technologies that assist people with disabilities use keyboard-only navigation features so make sure it works without the use of a mouse. A visitor to your website should be able to navigate all of your site’s key features with a keyboard, including all pages, links and content.
The most common way to do this is with the Tab key. This allows users to move from links to buttons to forms. At the very least, you should make sure all your web content can be navigated and accessed using the Tab key.
Craft Forms for Accessibility
If you have sections of your website that require users to enter information, make these forms accessible as well. Text fields should be large and distinguishable, sections should be clearly identified and all fields should be properly aligned with their labels. Be sure to provide clear instructions and information that’s easy for anyone to understand.
Make Sure All Your Website Visitors Can Enjoy Your Content
Making your website compliant with AODA and WCAG 2.0 may be daunting, but you’re ultimately improving the UX journey for everyone that comes to your website. If you need some help updating your website or building a new website to meet accessibility standards, reach out to us today!