Just like in physical spaces we try to make places feel welcoming and inclusive to all, we should want the same for people using the web. We rely on the web to support and enhance many aspects of life, so being able to easily use a website without feeling excluded is a basic human right. In the UK, having a website that is accessible is law and is covered in the Equality Act 2010.
What is accessible web design?
Making a website that is accessible means that a website has been designed and coded so that it excludes no one and can easily be used by all. When designing a website we should take into consideration users that have a disability which could mean that they use a website differently to your average user.
With a reported 14.1 million in the UK with a disability it is really disheartening to see that some websites do not consider accessibility at all.
What is a disability?
Disability is any condition of the body or mind that can hinder your ability to do normal daily activities. When thinking about accessibility in regards to web design this can include:
Disabilities can also be classed as:
- Permanent disability: this is a disability that you have all the time such as being blind or deaf
- Temporary disability: this is a disability which can hinder your abilities for short periods of time, this could include a broken arm.
- Situational disability: this is when a situation can change your ability to do something, for example a slow internet connection.
How can I make sure my website is accessible?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium are a set of recommendations which are recognised internationally. The guidelines are split into 3 levels, A, AA, AAA with A being the minimum and AAA being the highest measure of compliance. It is required that websites must achieve level A and AA to meet government accessibility requirements.
As well as hitting these standards, it’s just as important that the website is designed and built in a way that makes it easy to use and navigate. A website may tick all the accessibility requirements but if the user can’t find what they’re looking for then it’s equally frustrating.
Ensuring a website is accessible is a real team effort and at Clicky we have regular check-in points to make sure our designs, code and content is compliant according to the WCAG guidelines. There is lots of information and tools on the WCAG website if you’d like further information but here are a sample of some of the recommendations.
Alt-tags for images.
For people who are blind or visually impaired we should provide descriptions of the images we use across our websites which can be picked up by a screen reader. This is added after the “alt=” tag in the code. The more descriptive you are the better, for example “Man sitting in busy coffee shop at a table with his laptop” is much more informative than “Man.” It’s also important that you’re not too reliant on images, they should be there to compliment the text.
People who are blind and can’t see a mouse pointer or those with a physical disability which make them unable to use a mouse, need another way of being able to navigate and use a website and this can be done by coding the website so that it allows for keyboard navigation. Users should be able to tab their way through forms, links and content on page.
People with low contrast sensitivity or colour blindness rely on colours having sufficient contrast. This could include text on coloured backgrounds, text, buttons and icon colours. There is a handy online tool we use in the Creative Team to check our contrasts are high enough. It’s also important not to rely on solely on colour to communicate. For example red is often used for an error but not everyone will be able to see this, so it’s also important to have text that explains what the error is.
People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have certain cognitive and learning disabilities rely on videos and animations having captions and descriptions they can read. Having this option can also improve the experience for not only people with disabilities but in times when you find yourself in a noisy place and can’t hear the audio on the video you’re watching or you’re in a really quiet place and you’ve forgotten your headphones.
What does this mean for design?
When speaking to other designers about accessibility there is a consensus that of course we want everyone to be able to enjoy our designs and we don’t want to exclude anybody, but there is that worry of “will my creativity be stripped back?”.
Certainly it will add some constraints to our designs but we should see this as a new challenge to find innovative solutions to make our website experiences better and in return our designs get to be enjoyed by so many more people.
Is your website accessible for all?
Our team of specialists are on hand to offer guidance.