How to make your website accessible to customers with disabilities
Is your business website accessible to customers with disabilities?
If not, making a few so-called ‘reasonable adjustments’ to your site can open your business up to a valuable new market and may help you to comply with the Equality Act 2010.
There are some very simple things you can do to make your site more welcoming and accessible. The Equality Act asks you to make what are termed ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that your site is more accessible to all potential customers.
For example, the RNIB reported, in 2017, that there are around 350,000 people on the registers of blind and partially sighted people in the UK, while the NHS tells us that as many as one in ten of us can have some degree of dyslexia. All of this makes visiting a website challenging.
A range of assistive technologies is available, such as Apple’s Voice Over and the JAWS Screen Reader. The UK government gives an overview of and some advice about these technologies in the blog ‘How to create content that works well with screen readers’.
If you want to look into this in more detail, you could look at World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which sets-out a range of fundamental best-practice recommendations.
So, here are just a few ways you can make your website more accessible, not only to people with disabilities, but to any users.
None of these techniques will interfere with the user experience of customers who don’t have disabilities, but they will help to make your website so much more welcoming to those who do.
1 - Add Alt Text to images
As sophisticated as assistive technologies are, they struggle with ‘reading’ images.
If you add Alt Text descriptions to your images, the Screen Reader will read that and the customer will understand what you are showing.
A good way to practice this is to have someone read the Alt Text to you. If the image you imagine is pretty close to the actual image, you’ve done a good job.
The bonus with Alt Text is that it also helps you rank with search engines, so adding Alt Text to images helps make it easier for all customers to find you.
2 - Think about layout and font
Breaking your text down into small units, such as short paragraphs with a fair bit of white space around them, is good practice for any readers. It makes your copy look less intimidating.
Web designers love white space, so you’ll be making your designer happy. And, what’s more, it’s really helpful for people with attention difficulties.
Also, designers tend to prefer san serif fonts, that’s fonts where the letters don’t have little extra strokes at the top and bottom of the verticals (otherwise known as serifs). The font you’re presently reading is sans serif. The thing is, san serif fonts are easier on everyone’s eyes, especially people with visual difficulties, so using these clear, unfussy fonts will make everyone happier.
It’s also a good idea to use a font that is 12 or 14 points because, again, this is easier on everyone’s eyes, but particularly helpful for those with limited vision.
3 - Add subtitles to videos
A great way to include people who can’t easily read (and those people who simply don't like to read) is to include video content on your website. But, of course, this is of little use to people with hearing difficulties.
So, when you are creating videos, it’s a great idea to add subtitles. This doesn’t just help people with hearing difficulties, it means that all users can play the video without sound, which is also useful if you want your videos to be shared on social media.
If you’re hosting your videos on YouTube, you can add your own subtitles through their ‘Create closed captions’ feature or rely on their AI-generated subtitles with their ‘Use automatic captioning’ feature.
It’s also a great idea to create a transcript of the video, so people can choose to read your content as an article, if they prefer. Putting a transcript in the description on YouTube helps their algorithms to index your video, which means they’re more likely to show it to new viewers so, once again, this is something that benefits all potential customers and, therefore, benefits your business.
4 - Use colours sensitively
Font colour and background colour can be an issue for people with a range of conditions, from colour blindness to cataracts, as well as for those with dyslexia or partial sight.
There are various browser extensions people can use to help them with this, such as High Contrast, Midnight Lizard or Pro Visu’s Look. These tools allow tech-savvy people to alter the fonts, font sizes and colours on websites to something that is easier on their eyes.
To help with this, it’s important to have a high contrast between the foreground and background on your website. So, simple black text on a white background would be a good start.
5 - Don’t use placeholder text in contact forms
Contact forms are a great way for customers to communicate with you. We show you how to add contact forms to your site in this helpful video.
However, if you are using one, it’s best to not pre-fill the fields with placeholder text sure as “Your Name Here” or “Your Email Address Here”. This text is often light grey, which makes it difficult for some people to read. It is best to clearly label the fields with high-contrast text - this way more people will be able to contact you and you will, therefore, be able to do more business.
Over to you
If you have encountered any problems with accessing websites and can suggest some best practice, we’d love to hear from you. Come find our Facebook group, The Digital Marketing Tribe and tell us about it.