Web Accessibility for Clients

May 19, 2015
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You’re in good hands. A developer is building or renovating your organization’s website, and everything is shaping up as planned. You like what the developer has done and can’t wait to see the finished product.

Just keep in mind that, at some point, your daily relationship with your developer is likely to end, when the contract comes to an end. The relationship can continue, of course, but at some point — no matter how impressive your website eventually looks and responds — you won’t need to rely on the developer. You’ll slowly take control of the site, adding more content, tweaking tools, and maybe even tinkering with design.

That’s why it’s important in those building stages to understand how to make your website accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility allows those with blindness and low vision, deafness and other disabilities to have full use and enjoyment of the Web. There’s no better time to implement the steps necessary for an accessible website then when reviewing the content that will shape a new or remodeled website. Much of what you need to do, in fact, goes hand in hand with creating content. And if your website is already up and running, there’s no harm going back and focusing on accessibility.

This is the first of a two-part series that offers clients simple ways to create an accessible website. Hopefully, clients will see that they, too, can easily take the actions needed to make their websites accessible without the help of a developer. (If you’re interested, we not long ago posted a two-part series on web accessibility for developers.)

Use Descriptive Alt Text

A developer should use alt text throughout a website. It helps visually impaired visitors understand all the details behind an image. If, for some reason, the developer hasn’t made the alt text field required, you can ask them to do so. Regardless, you should still insert the alt text in the field yourself.

But don’t settle for only one word of alt text. Just writing “koala bear,” for instance, won’t tell a visitor who’s using a screen reader that the koala bear is hanging delicately off a long branch of a eucalyptus tree while chomping on leaves. The more description the alt text provides in the 255 characters allowed, the more enlightened your visitors will be.

Caption Away!

Similarly, being descriptive doesn’t end with images. You should make all digital media on your website accessible to the hearing impaired. That means offering captions and transcripts for videos, podcasts and pre-recorded webinars.

Most software —although not all — has the capability to create captions and transcripts. YouTube, for one, provides captions. Just as alt text lets visually impaired visitors understand what an image has to offer, captions and transcripts allow hearing-impaired visitors to read all that’s behind your site’s digital media offerings.

Know the Limits of Third-party Services

Again, not every third-party service lets users create captions and transcripts. Many services, for good or bad, limit what people can do with their products. Keep that in mind when working with your vendor; they usually have no control over third-party Web tools and services. It’s ideal to learn what those limitations are so you can either work with the third-party service to see if you can get what you need, or find a workaround solution with your developer. If a service says it doesn’t allow transcription, for example, then it usually doesn’t.

We’ll soon post part two of this series. In the meantime, try some – or all – of these tips and you'll see that website accessibility is not that difficult to accomplish.

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