Essential Website Accessibility Tips for Nonprofit Success

This is an additional resource for Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast episode 257 with Max Ivey.

As a website owner, you want everyone to access your content. This includes individuals with disabilities who may face barriers when navigating websites that aren’t designed with accessibility in mind. This is where website accessibility tips come into play. Implementing these website accessibility tips can lead to a better user experience for all visitors. It also helps you comply with accessibility standards and guidelines.

Table of Contents:

What Does Website Accessibility Mean?

Website accessibility refers to the practice of designing and developing websites everyone can use, including people with disabilities. This means ensuring your website can be navigated and understood regardless of a person’s physical limitations or disabilities. There are four key principles that form the foundation of website accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR).

The Four Principles of Accessibility

Perceivable

Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means avoiding elements that exclude some of your users. For example, a person with a visual impairment might utilize a screen reader to access and navigate your website. If your website relies heavily on visual elements without text alternatives, those users would be excluded from accessing the content.

Operable

This principle centers around functionality. It ensures users with disabilities can interact with all elements on the page. Additionally, all functionality should be available from a keyboard.

Understandable

Making content easy to understand is vital to an accessible website. To achieve this, avoid ambiguous language. You should also ensure consistency in your navigation, provide clear instructions, and use headers to distinguish page structure.

Robust

Content must be robust enough that various user agents, including assistive technologies, can interpret it reliably. A variety of assistive technology devices, such as screen readers, are used to access and navigate websites.

Website Accessibility Tips

Now that you understand the importance of incorporating website accessibility best practices into your design process let’s explore some specific website accessibility tips. These tips will improve the overall user experience on your site for individuals with disabilities.

1. Include Alt Text for Images

Imagine not fully experiencing the visuals that make websites appealing. For people with visual impairments, this is a daily reality. That’s where alt text, a cornerstone of web accessibility, comes in.

Alt text involves adding a concise, descriptive text alternative to every image on your site. This text alternative isn’t visible to regular visitors. However, screen readers used by people who are blind or have low vision read it aloud. Image alt text should be simple and descriptive. If the image is only decorative, you can leave it blank.

2. Provide Captions and Transcripts for Videos and Audio Content

Creating an inclusive website isn’t just about visual accessibility; it also includes the audio component of user experience. If your site features videos or audio content, such as podcasts or webinars, accompany them with accurate captions and transcripts.

Adding captions to videos makes it easier for viewers to follow spoken content. This is especially helpful if they are in a noisy environment, have a slow internet connection, or are unfamiliar with the video’s language. Closed captions (CC) are captions that viewers can turn on and off.

In many cases, such as live broadcasts or user-generated content, closed captions aren’t available right away. If available, it is computer-generated and might contain inaccuracies. Open Captions, on the other hand, cannot be turned off because they are part of the video.

Think about watching a TED Talk. You might be surprised that captions are vital for many viewers to absorb and enjoy such content. Captions are non-negotiable for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to access information. This makes your content inclusive to a wider audience.

3. Ensure Your Website Has a Logical and Consistent Structure

Imagine navigating a library with no signage or an airport with scrambled departure boards. This chaotic and confusing experience is similar to what users who use assistive technologies experience when websites lack logical structure and predictable navigation flow.

A well-structured website isn’t just visually pleasing—it’s crucial for accessibility. Use a logical hierarchy for headings and subheadings (H1-H6) to break up your content into digestible chunks, providing context to assistive technologies about page structure.

You want to create an easy-to-follow path for all your visitors, guiding them smoothly through your content, regardless of their abilities. Stick to familiar layout conventions, like having the main navigation bar prominently placed at the top and keeping consistent placement for essential elements. For larger websites, a sitemap can be significant for all users.

This is crucial for visually impaired users, who may find it more difficult to grasp a website’s layout. A sitemap improves overall usability, regardless of whether a visitor requires assistive technology or not.

4. Ensure Your Website is Keyboard-Friendly

In a world increasingly driven by mouse clicks and touchscreens, we take for granted the keyboard’s essential role in making the web universally accessible. Not every user can easily operate a mouse, particularly those with mobility impairments.

Ensuring your website is navigable using only a keyboard isn’t an extra feature—it’s imperative for accessibility. Put yourself in the shoes of someone using a mouth stick, voice-controlled software, or a switch device to navigate the internet.

A website accessibility tip every website owner can implement is to test their website’s navigation using only their keyboard. Go through pages and forms, noticing if any element isn’t accessible with a simple tab keystroke. Pay special attention to interactive elements like drop-down menus, buttons, and links. Confirm they receive a visible focus indicator (usually a highlight or border) when selected using the tab key. If a visitor can do something with a mouse, they should also do it using their keyboard.

5. Write Descriptive and Informative Link Text

Think of link text as signposts that tell you where you’ll go next on your digital journey. However, for visually impaired users, those signposts can feel more like dead ends without clear and informative anchor text.

Avoid generic phrases like “Click here” or “read more.” Instead, use text that clearly conveys the link’s purpose. This specificity provides valuable context to your users—especially those relying on screen readers. For example, instead of:

To view our current services, click here.

You would write:

Learn more about our services.

6. Avoid Using Color as the Sole Method of Conveying Information

You probably enjoy using vibrant hues in your website design. But colors alone can’t tell the full story, especially when catering to users with disabilities. While strategic color use is integral to design, it’s crucial to recognize that color perception varies greatly among individuals. Those with low vision or color blindness might perceive or distinguish certain colors differently. Relying solely on color cues can inadvertently create barriers, particularly with interactive elements.

Website accessibility best practices aren’t about draining the vibrancy out of your designs; they’re about fostering inclusion for everyone. Consider complementing your color choices with alternative visual cues whenever possible. If you’re using color to highlight required form fields, reinforce it by placing an asterisk next to the label.

7. Avoid Automatic Media and Animations

Auto-playing media and animations might seem like they’re adding flair to your site. However, to users with disabilities, such as cognitive differences or vestibular disorders, they can be more disruptive than delightful. For some users, motion can trigger dizziness, nausea, or even seizures. Website accessibility tips we haven’t even considered are crucial in such cases.

A website accessibility tip that any site owner can incorporate today is to always provide controls to stop, pause, or adjust the volume for any animations. You can include an option to turn off animations completely if a user desires.

Conclusion

These website accessibility tips should be combined with thorough testing, seeking feedback from users with disabilities, and continuously staying informed about evolving best practices for accessibility on websites. By implementing these website accessibility tips, you contribute to a more welcoming and accessible web for everyone. After all, an inclusive online world benefits everybody.

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