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12 Tips to Improve Accessibility

DevOps and Design Nerd
・4 min read

It’s a common assumption that accessibility is only for people with disabilities. Though individuals with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities should always be kept in mind, an accessible web should be designed for, and benefit, everyone. People with or without disabilities. Web users and web developers. Keep in mind that peoples' needs and preferences are wildly diverse. An accessible web gives your users the flexibility to access digital materials in whatever way they need or want to.

Concepts to Keep in Mind

Human beings are all different and diverse. Just as we celebrate the diversity of individuals in a cultural context, so should we design technologies that take diverse needs and preferences into account.

Accessible design is innovative design. The same design principles that make technologies accessible — semantic mark-up, intuitive information hierarchy, machine-readable text — are also principles that promote mobile design and a semantic web.

Technology has the potential to be a great equalizer — but inaccessible technology only further excludes people. Let’s embrace the potential of technology to let people be as independent, self-sufficient, and connected as possible.

The 12 Methods to Improve Accessibility

Below you will find a list of some key principles of accessible design. Most accessibility principles can be implemented very easily and will not impact the overall “look and feel” of your web site.

  1. Provide appropriate alternative text

    Alternative text provides a textual alternative to non-text content (such as pictures and images) in web pages. It is especially helpful for people who are blind and rely on a screen reader to have the content of the website read to them.

  2. Provide appropriate document structure

    Headings, lists, and other structural elements provide meaning and structure to web pages. They can also facilitate keyboard navigation within the page.

  3. Provide headers for data tables

    Tables are used online for layout and to organize data. Tables that are used to organize tabular data should have appropriate table headers (the

    element). Data cells should be associated with their appropriate headers, making it easier for screen reader users to navigate and understand the data table.
  4. Ensure users can complete and submit all forms

    Ensure that every form element (text field, checkbox, dropdown list, etc.) has a label and make sure that label is associated to the correct form element using the element. Also make sure the user can submit the form and recover from any errors, such as the failure to fill in all required fields.

  5. Ensure links make sense out of context

    Every link should make sense if the link text is read by itself. Screen reader users may choose to read only the links on a web page. Certain phrases like “click here” and “more” must be avoided.

  6. Caption and/or provide transcripts for media

    Videos and live audio must have captions and a transcript. With archived audio, a transcription may be sufficient.

  7. Ensure accessibility of non-HTML content, including PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Flash content

    In addition to all of the other principles listed here, PDF documents and other non-HTML content must be as accessible as possible. If you cannot make it accessible, consider using HTML instead or, at the very least, provide an accessible alternative. PDF documents should also include a series of tags to make it more accessible. A tagged PDF file looks the same, but it is almost always more accessible to a person using a screen reader.

  8. Allow users to skip repetitive elements on the page

    You should provide a method that allows users to skip navigation or other elements that repeat on every page. This is usually accomplished by providing a “Skip to Main Content,” or “Skip Navigation” link at the top of the page which jumps to the main content of the page.

  9. Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning

    The use of color can enhance comprehension, but do not use color alone to convey information. That information may not be available to a person who is colorblind and will be unavailable to screen reader users.

  10. Make sure content is clearly written and easy to read

    There are many ways to make your content easier to understand. Write clearly, use clear fonts, and use headings and lists appropriately.

  11. Make JavaScript accessible

    Ensure that JavaScript event handlers are device independent (e.g., they do not require the use of a mouse) and make sure that your page does not rely on JavaScript to function.

  12. Design to standards

    Ensure that every page is fully-functional even when the stylesheets are disabled. HTML compliant and accessible pages are more robust and provide better search engine optimization. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow you to separate content from presentation. This provides more flexibility and accessibility of your content.

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