Website accessibility is an important but often overlooked feature of website design. There is a misconception that accessibility only includes features designed for blindness or users with disabilities. However, accessibility is the ability for people to access and use the site, regardless of technology or ability. The most accessible the site, the more open it is to people to use it. So, it is in the web developers best interest to ensure a highly accessible site.
There are four important considerations to website accessibility, and each of them have different and important considerations to the design, structure and style of the site.
Cross-Browser/Cross-Platform Compatibility: does the site work with technology?
This is becoming a very important part of website accessibility. This includes the ability for websites to accommodate different browser types and screen sizes. This includes how the site views on mobile devices or tablets, an important and growing part of how websites are viewed.
It is also important that browsers can access the site. This might not mean legacy support for Internet Explorer 6, but it does mean being able to create sites that can be viewed in Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Without ensuring these browsers work well with the website, large risks are being undertaken.
Color Choice: does the contrast hinder poor vision?
The choice of colors plays an important part of the readability of the site. This is particularly important for people with poor vision or color blindness. Before choosing the site color palette or use of colors, it is useful to research how combinations affect common color blindness, so people with this sight issue can still read the site content.
Semantic HTML Markup: good structure for assistive technologies
The use of assistive technologies has really helped people with visual impairments make the most of the Internet. However, good semantic HTML Markup is useful for SEO and other website compatibility features. Therefore the accuracy of quality website markup is really important for ensuring great structure. Developers should be vigilant at keeping HTML tags in order and used correctly.
HTML Accessibility Features: available for use in websites
The available HTML website accessibility features and techniques can really help give the site access to people with visual impairments. Some research into how the website can effectively use these features will go a long way to ensuring that the website is open to everyone.
Accessibility tools: ways to check the website accessibility
There are several tools available that can easily test the accessibility of the website. The Juicy Tools has a CSS checker which ensures the visual elements of the website are optimized. The W3C Markup Validation Service checks over a page to see if HTML structure has issues, and looks to see if there are accessibility problems.
Web designers should also understand what the website is like for those who are visually impaired who are accessing the site. WebAnywhere provides a free web-based screen reader which can check the site for any issues in this regard.
Accessibility is about ensuring that the website is open to as many people as possible. It is therefore important for web developers to go through these checks and make sure their website is available to all.