In a digital age like ours, we use the web to do our shopping, order food, pay our bills, look for housing, jobs, and healthcare, access the library, plan a trip, consume the news and other media, and learn a new skill. And courts have ruled that the same requirements for the physical world (like buildings having wheelchair ramps or fire alarms with flashing lights) should apply to the digital world as well.
Think about it this way – on average, one in eight Americans over the age of 12 have experienced hearing loss, 15% of adults over 18 have trouble hearing, and the rate of hearing loss gets worse as we grow older. If every adult in the United States (129 million people) watched a product video or webinar that does not have captions, over 19 million of them would have trouble understanding. That’s a guaranteed bounce rate of at least 15%. And that’s just users with hearing loss.
When we talk about accessibility, we’re also talking about people with degrees of blindness, with epilepsy, palsy, amputations, paralysis, about users with cognitive disabilities like ADHD or dyslexia. And they all use the web. They’re probably operating your product. They can be in your target audience, a CEO or CISO, a VP of Engineering. And because of your flashing content or missing transcripts, voilà, you may have just lost a prospect.
You know who also struggles with inaccessible websites? Users on mobile phones, or who are 65 and older, or have broken arms and can’t operate a trackpad, users who always lose their glasses, or work in a sunny environment or a noisy café, users traveling with slow internet connections. There go more of your leads.
That’s where the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Guidelines come in (say that 10 times fast). A collection of international nonprofits, businesses, governments, and universities got together and created guidelines for how to make your website usable for anyone anywhere anytime. And lawsuits are leaning on these guidelines as the standard.
So, by no means comprehensive, here are some ways you can make your website a little more accessible for a lot more impact:
Make it perceivable.
- There should be many options and media for consuming your content. We recommend captions and transcripts for videos and audio and detailed descriptions for essential imagery (decorations are okay).
- No images of text, ever. Any good developer knows to keep the text separate from backgrounds and images so that it’s accessible to screen readers.
- All text has sufficient contrast from the background to make it easy to read.
Make it easy to use.
- The site should be usable via keyboard only. No traps, no exceptions.
- Have a carousel or time-sensitive content? Make sure users have a chance to pause or override to go back in case they missed something.
- No flashing content, ever.
- With your site navigation, all page titles and link purposes should be clearly defined and provide easy ways to access that content. Nobody likes digging through 15 different pages to find your pricing or product features.
Make it understandable.
- Have trouble with page drop off? Maybe your content is hard to read. Breaking it down into bite-sized, digestible chunks that don’t require 3 PhDs will make it more accessible and might give you more leads.
- If interactions are required (like form submissions), help the reader out. Give them clear instructions, let them proof-read their input, and give them suggestions on how to fix errors. They’ll love you for it.
And finally, make it robust.
- The cleaner the code, the more accessible the site. Developers should make sure to rid the code of bugs and errors, have clear values and names for elements, and no duplicate attributes.
And if this is all overwhelming, worry not. We have some quick and simple code solutions that can help get your site on the right side of accessibility without the cost of a redesign (and cheaper than your monthly coffee expenses). We can also certainly give your site an audit and some recommendations or designs for the long-term. After all, it’s more cost-efficient to update your site than it is to undergo an ADA lawsuit.
It’s 2020 and the world is changing. Are you ready to get started?