When considering the development of a superior website, various factors may come to mind. One might consider the significance of inbound links and attaining high rankings on search engine results pages. Alternatively, factors such as ALT image attributes and adherence to 508/WCAG 2.0 compliance standards may seem unfamiliar. If these latter concepts are met with confusion, it is possible that proper website accessibility has not been adequately addressed, potentially leading to complications.
To clarify, the importance of links and rankings should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that website accessibility has long been neglected. While links and rankings may contribute to enhancing business outcomes, their significance becomes irrelevant if visitors encounter difficulties accessing your website. If your website development primarily focuses on marketing aspects without considering the overall user experience, your priorities may require reevaluation.
Fortunately, it is never too late to address this issue. Therefore, it is imperative to recognize the reasons why enhancing website accessibility is necessary. Furthermore, incorporating a few key measures to improve website accessibility in 2023 can be highly beneficial.
But it’s not too late. Here’s why you should make your site more accessible and a few things you can implement to offer better website accessibility in 2023.
The State of Web Accessibility in 2023
The current state of website accessibility in 2023 is disheartening, as numerous websites lack even the most fundamental accessibility features. Considering our technology-centric society, there is no justification for this oversight, particularly for those operating in the United States. Federal websites in the US are required to adhere to Section 508/WCAG 2.0, an amendment that mandates government sites to uphold and maintain web accessibility standards and guidelines.
While non-Federal websites like yours may not have a legal obligation to comply with Section 508, it is essential to reflect on the rationale behind denying anyone the opportunity to access your site. By disregarding website accessibility, you effectively exclude certain individuals from viewing your content.
Striving for compliance should be a shared objective for all. The Internet is utilized by people of all ages, including young teenagers and elderly individuals. Additionally, individuals with visual impairments, injuries, or disabilities rely on the web as well. Moreover, they access the internet using various devices. As mobile usage and other emerging search methods continue to rise, ensuring that your website can be accessed anywhere and by anyone becomes increasingly crucial.
For our tech-obsessed culture, we have no excuse, especially for those of us in the United States. US Federal websites must adhere to Section 508, which is part of an amendment that requires government sites to uphold and maintain all web accessibility standards and guidelines.
So although non-Federal websites like yours don’t necessarily need to comply with Section 508, ask yourself this: Why would you deny anyone the right to view your site? Because by ignoring website accessibility, that’s essentially what you’re doing.
Becoming 508 compliant is something we should all aspire to achieve. The web is used by everyone—by young teens and aging folks alike. The blind, injured, and disabled use the web too. And they’re using the web across a variety of devices. As mobile and other new search methods continue to rise, ensuring your site can be accessed anywhere—and by anyone is increasingly essential.
The Reason Why (Mostly) Everyone Ignores Website Accessibility
The prevalence of inadequate website accessibility can often be attributed to the priorities of the businesses behind these websites. Different types of websites, such as eCommerce sites and Wiki sites, have distinct development objectives and considerations.
For instance, eCommerce sites typically prioritize setting up the shopping cart, incorporating appealing images, and providing relevant product information. These elements are crucial for a website focused on selling products. However, it is important to question whether these components can be accessed by users who are visually impaired. Failing to address accessibility concerns not only hampers potential sales but also excludes a significant user base.
A notable example is Target, which faced legal consequences in 2005 when blind users sued the company for their inability to order products through Target’s website. The resulting class damages payment of $6 million served as a wake-up call for other online retailers, highlighting the significance of website accessibility.
It is easy to become enamored with the enticing aspects of website development, such as search engine optimization, often overlooking the less glamorous topic of website accessibility. However, while it may lack flashy appeal, website accessibility is an essential necessity. A website must be readable and usable for all users, not just the web developers or those involved in its creation.
Make Your Site Accessible for Everyone
So what exactly should your site be doing to make it more accessible? Ensuring that your website is accessible to all users should be a priority. While it is crucial to optimize your site for conversions and user engagement, website accessibility takes this concept to a higher level.
Following Google’s repeated advice to “make sites for users, not search engines,” it becomes evident that accessibility plays a critical role. By making your site inaccessible, intentionally or unintentionally, you risk alienating users and hindering its success.
To enhance accessibility, there are several steps you can take. Here are a few important starting points:
- Incorporate appropriate alt text for images: By providing descriptive alternative text for images, users with visual impairments can understand the content through assistive technologies.
- Provide transcripts and captions for videos: Transcripts allow individuals with hearing impairments to access the information presented in videos, while captions ensure comprehension for users in noisy environments or situations where audio cannot be accessed.
- Avoid relying solely on mouse-based interactions: Design your website to be accessible through keyboard navigation as well, enabling users who cannot use a mouse or have motor disabilities to navigate and interact with the site effectively.
- Ensure proper heading structure: Use headings (H1, H2, etc.) in a logical order to create a hierarchical structure for your content. This helps users using screen readers or assistive technologies to navigate and understand the organization of your website.
- Provide clear and concise link text: Use descriptive and meaningful link text that accurately represents the destination or purpose of the link. Avoid using generic phrases like “click here” or “read more,” as they can be confusing for users relying on screen readers or text-based browsers.
- Optimize color contrast: Choose color combinations that provide sufficient contrast between text and background elements. This ensures readability for users with visual impairments or color vision deficiencies.
- Design for responsive and flexible layouts: Create a responsive website design that adapts to different screen sizes and devices. This allows users to access your site comfortably on various platforms, including mobile devices and tablets.
- Provide alternative content for non-text elements: Elements such as charts, graphs, and diagrams should have alternative textual representations or explanations to convey the information they contain to users who cannot perceive them visually.
- Enable resizable text and scalable interface: Allow users to adjust the text size and ensure that the website’s interface elements scale accordingly. This benefits users with visual impairments who may require larger text or interface elements for better readability.Remember, these examples are not exhaustive, but they provide a broader perspective on the measures you can take to improve website accessibility. Implementing these accessibility features contributes to creating a more inclusive online experience for all users.