Web Accessibility for Clients - Part Two

Thanks for coming back. If you tried a few of the tips in the first part of this series, you probably realized that making a website accessible to all visitors doesn’t require much time, or cause much stress. Even if you didn’t yet try, I hope this blog further illustrates that clients need not worry about sitting down themselves to create a website that’s useful and informative to visitors with disabilities - without reaching out to a developer for help.

A Data Table for Everyone

Without proper setup, a data table will come off as a big jumble of words to those using a screen reader. That’s because the reader will scan left to right and read the header only once and then proceed line by line, failing to give any context to the content below.

A screen reader instead should say the column header each time it reads the corresponding text below. In other words, it should say the header “Doctor” before reading the name of each doctor. It’s any easy fix; so much so that even a website content manager can do it without the help of a developer. Basically, tags with an ID attribute or scope attribute should be included in the code of a data table. The Web Authoring Resource Center offers an easy guide on how to do it.

Contrast Your Colors

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines offered by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) recommends that content should be distinguishable and easy for visitors to hear and see, and this includes separating the foreground from the background.

Some developers create websites from start to finish, including the initial design phase. But other developers enter the journey later, so it’s best that clients not forget about color contrast. The general rule of compliance calls for the visual presentation of text and images to have a contrast ratio of at least 4:5:1. You can test your site’s contrast by using this handy color contrast ratio analyzer by Juicy Studio.

Keep it Simple

It might be easy to get carried away when writing content for your website and use lofty words. But don’t forget that the average American has a 7th or 8th grade vocabulary. You want to make sure your general audience quickly understands what you’re trying to convey on a website. If you offer content that’s suited for people with reading levels higher than the national average, you risk turning other visitors away. Once again, Juicy Studio has come to the rescue, with a readability test that has useful advice on how to determine if your content reaches the right audience.

These are only a few tips that can help clients make a website accessible to all visitors. If you’d like to learn more — or perhaps even gain a greater understanding of Web accessibility itself — there are two more resources worth reading.

The first is a checklist of standards from Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act that government agencies must follow to provide full and fair Internet access to people with disabilities. Even though only federal agencies are required to follow them, the standards serve as a detailed source of steps for businesses and organizations to use.

Another useful resource is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, mentioned earlier, offered by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3). The guidelines are wide-ranging and should also help you on the way to creating an accessible website.

These simple steps will help get you started so you can offer a website that’s accessible to all. Understanding how to approach accessibility means you won’t have to zip your developer a frantic email wondering about the specifics of color contrast and data tables. If you have any questions or want to forward other helpful hints, please leave a comment below.