How to Incorporate Accessibility Into Your Website's User Experience

Contributed content / By Marc Avila / 1 October 2019

Brick and mortar businesses and institutions have long understood the importance of making their spaces accessible to individuals with special needs and disabilities, when it comes to the online user experience, however, many websites and digital platforms continue to fall short.

Ensuring that websites are fully accessible for users with varying abilities and needs should be considered a critical part of the user experience along with making the website mobile-friendly and responsive

3 Media Web has collaborated with innovative companies like 3Play Media and Cape Cord Organization for the Rights of the Disabled (CORD)  to help bring cutting edge web experiences and access to differently-abled audiences.

cape cord organization for the rights of the disabled

CORD is one of the organizations that assist with the advancement of independent living and rights amongst people with disabilities. Its website provides a variety of resources and testimonials. 

How to Incorporate Accessibility Into Your Website's User Experience

  1. Understand how accessibility issues impact your customers
  2. Follow tips and best practices for accessible UX
  3. Use an ADA compliance checklist

Understand How Accessibility Issues Impact Your Customers

While it is important to build and maintain an accessible website in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there’s more than that. From a marketing perspective, it makes sense to make your website user-friendly for different types of people. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in four American adults (over 60 million people) report living with a disability. The most common types of disability include:

  • Mobility
  • Cognition
  • Hearing
  • Vision

The CDC estimates that by age 65, two in five Americans will suffer from some type of mobility issues and limitations.

Regardless of the industry, making websites and mobile platforms available and accessible to all users should be a priority for marketers, who may otherwise run the risk of alienating current and potential customers.

A website can meet all of the typical “must haves” for usability such as fast loading pages, intuitive navigation, and mobile optimization, but it can still leave a large segment of the population out if it doesn’t make it easy for users with physical, visual, auditory, or cognitive impairments to access the site’s content.

As stated in the ADA, a poorly designed website can create unneeded barriers, just as some buildings can prevent people with disabilities from entering due to them not meeting the standard code. Web designers sometimes mistakenly assume that everyone can see and access their site in the same way. 

Follow Tips and Best Practices for Accessible UX

Here are a few tips and best practices that 3 Media Web uses for creating a truly inclusive and accessible user experience that also meets ADA compliance standards and guidelines: 

1. Start With a CMS As Your Web Platform

Use a content management system that supports accessible web design, software, plug-ins, and assistive devices.

2. Craft Metatags to Your Advantage

Create complete and detailed metadata and tags so that text to speech readers and other assistive technology can access and interpret the website’s content.

3. Make Website Copy Text-Friendly for Users

Format text for accessibility by using headers and sub headers, break up big blocks of text and use shorter sentences, and add “return to top” links for easier navigation.

4. Embed Links for Context

Implement links into specific words and phrases so that audio and text reader devices can identify and understand the correct context.

5. Keep Layouts and Navigation Simple

Use simple, linear formats for layouts and avoid tables, which are too complex and complicated for accessibility tools and software to interpret. Along with simple formatting, website designers should make sure that all online and downloadable forms and PDFs are accessible. 

6. Use Easy Navigation Tools

This may be straightforward, but businesses should ensure that their sites have keyboard navigation available for users that can’t use a mouse. Another tip for navigation is adding a user-friendly color strategy to ensure that content and graphics are easy to identify. Pro tip: incorporate secondary descriptions or instructions for color blind users

Use an ADA Compliance Checklist

Now that we’ve gone through some quick tips, an ADA compliance checklist is a great starting place for development. Assistive technology enables people with disabilities to use computers. This can include computer programs, such as text enlargement software and voice-enabled technology, and other software built into operating systems.

Some accessibility features within operating systems include a variety of adjustments for users. More of this technology is being developed. 

The ADA outlines what web developers and designers should consider when creating and maintaining websites that will be accessible for all users. Developers and web designers can craft a roadmap by asking a few simple questions:

questions to formulate an accessibility plan

Once those questions are answered, businesses are on their way to having an accessible platform for their audience. 

In addition to using accessible design and content management systems, tools like the Accessible Rich Internet Application Suite (ARIA) help developers to improve website functionality for users that rely on assistive technology to view and interact with website content and features.

Use Design Thinking to Create an Accessible and Seamless Experience for All Users

Developing a new website or retrofitting an existing one to make it accessible for users with disabilities doesn’t require reinventing the wheel.

In most cases, expanding on user experience best practices will make a website’s navigation and content accessible to users with varying abilities and limitations.

Most of the elements that apply to creating a good overall user experience also apply to making a website more accessible.

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