Nearly one out of five Americans has a disability. Is your web experience inclusive and welcoming to visitors with disabilities, or does it create barriers for these people? Does it make sense to shut out 20 percent of the web-surfing population from your organization's site?
Many web UI designers and developers get so wrapped up in the whiz-bang stuff that they overlook the fundamentals, like building an inclusive web experience that works for everyone.
Having interviewed many blind and visually impaired web users, there are a several common roadblocks that these users face on a daily basis, causing considerable frustration. In fact, they tell me that their web browsing habits are heavily informed by how accessible or inaccessible a site it. These users spend more time at sites that are accessible than at those that are not.
Many blind or visually-impaired people use screen reader software to read the content of websites aloud. Screen readers parse the website code to read both the structure and content of a site, including hyperlinks, aloud to the visitor.
How well or how poorly a site passes the screen reader sniff test will likely determine that site's accessibility.
Here are three tips for accessibility, direct from interviews with blind users:
- Keep copy short and to the point. Long-winded web content is a pain point for users with disabilities. It's as true for blind or visually-impaired users employing screen readers as it is for users with cognitive disabilities such as ADHD or dyslexia.
- Optimize forms for people with disabilities. There are several relatively simple practices that web developers can adopt now to create accessible web forms. Forms that are poorly designed or that use CAPTCHA techniques to minimize spam will deter users with disabilities from engaging with your organization.
- Use a clear, logical navigation structure and include a search function. This helps everyone find content on your site, but is a key driver of accessibility.
Sadly, many organizations have put up a velvet rope around their business, only letting in certain user groups, and excluding others.
At MCCI, we build our sites to a minimum accessibility standard that varies by client and circumstance. This keeps both us and our clients from inadvertently putting up barriers for users with disabilities.
Look at your website. Ask your web team to audit your site for accessibility and take action to make your site accessible for all users.