The core idea of website accessibility is that everyone should be able to use every website on the internet regardless of a condition that affects what hardware or software they need to use.
If you aren’t a coder, you might think there’s nothing you can do about the accessibility of your site. But even if you use a website builder, a lot of the issues that plaintiff’s lawyers look for initially are actually design elements that you control.
Follow these steps to make sure you're doing what you can to make your website accessible for everyone.
Research your website builder and theme
The first step in making your website accessible is to choose a website builder or theme that was designed to be accessible and easy to read by screen readers and other assistive technology. While you may not know how to code, you do know how to do a little research. Choose a site where someone else has already done the coding for you to make sure that your site is set up to be accessible.
Use appropriate headings on all your pages
Screen readers rely on the signals built into your site to read webpages appropriately. Signals like header designations aren’t just there for aesthetics.
Make sure you use clear, descriptive headings and label them with the appropriate level of heading. Make sure all headings are properly nested (meaning, used in order).
Each page should only have one H1 heading. After that, all headings should be used in order (H1, H2, H3, not H1, H4, H2).
While it may be tempting to make beautiful graphics for your headings, don’t only include your headings inside of an image. Screen readers won’t appropriately interpret the image as a heading, even if the heading is listed in the alt text for the image. If you absolutely must use a heading inside an image, make sure you also include it typed on the page and set to the appropriate heading level (H1, H2, etc.).
Make Your Site Easy to Navigate and Control
Make sure the navigation on your site is easy to use. This includes giving each page on your site a clear, unique name. It also means that you have to skip the cutesy page names in your menu. Don’t use a label like “Love Notes” for your testimonials page.
Make sure your navigation links stay consistent across all your pages. If a linked word has a certain function on one page, you should use the same word for the same function on all other pages.
Test out your site using only your keyboard. You should be able to use the tab key, arrow keys, and enter/return key to navigate around your entire site.
It’s also helpful to use skip-to-content or skip navigation links to allow people using assistive devices to get where they’re trying to go faster without hitting tab a million times to get through the menu.
Make your site easy to see and understand
There are a few ways you can make your website easier to see and understand.
Make sure all your text and images have enough contrast so that they’re easy to see and aren’t hard on your eyes. That means avoiding red text on a green background as well as light gray text on a white background. There are websites that help you determine whether there is enough contrast between two colors – simply enter the hex codes for each color and it’ll give you a contrast score.
Use descriptive anchor text for all the links on your site. That means don’t put the link on words like “click here” or “learn more.” Instead, link the text that describes where the link will take your visitor: “Click here to grab your free checklist.”
You should also make sure that you can zoom in and out on your site to make the text bigger and smaller without breaking the functionality or design of your site. Sometimes increases text size makes the flow of the site harder to understand or interpret.
Include Alternatives for All Media
Include alt text on all your images. This helps screen readers interpret your site and your images, and it improves your SEO. You should also include captions for all your video or audio recordings on your site. It’s also very helpful to include links to transcripts of any video or audio.
Make all media easy to control
Media that plays automatically can be very confusing for someone who has trouble processing information or sound and can also cause problems for screen readers.
Media that flashes more than three times in one second could potentially trigger someone with epilepsy or another neurological disorder to have an episode.
Make sure than any media that pays or changes automatically, like carousel images, video, or sound, can be paused or muted easily. The best practice would be to avoid playing media automatically at all, but if you can’t avoid it, at least make sure it’s clear how to pause or mute the media.
In fact, it’s better to avoid carousel images altogether because they don’t always signal to screen readers or other assistive devices that the image has changed.
Any feature on your site that changes automatically may fail to “inform” the screen reader of the change, which makes your site harder for the screen reader to properly interpret. Unless you can tell from the code that there is some sort of signal of the change, it’s better to avoid media that changes automatically.