Test your websites for accessibility

Andy talks about making sure websites are accessible to people with vision or hearing difficulty, and gave a very important reason – beyond “it’s the right thing to do” – why webmasters should care:

That is 1 in 5 Americans cannot experience the web without the assistance of some form of accessibility enhancement. I had no idea.

It’s not just people who are legally blind or deaf. As we age, most of us will get cataracts, and for a few years, they’re not operable. During that time, glowing screens are not easy to read. These visitors need higher contrast between text and background colors than viewers without cataracts. Or they may prefer podcasts they can listen to over written text. But don’t forget there are varying degrees of hearing loss. Most websites don’t use audio, but if yours does, you need to make sure any spoken words are available in text format, too.

Before you think, “Oh, great, what a pain”, consider a few things:

  • People who are losing vision or hearing due to age are mostly currently Baby Boomers, who have money and like spending it. It’s not in your best interest to frustrate them away from your site.
  • Other people with disabilities or impairments frequently have money to spend, too. I’m not sure why the idea persists that all disabled people are poor, but this is just not true.
  • Since offline stores don’t trouble themselves much to accommodate blind and deaf customers, here’s your chance to give them an easy, satisfying shopping experience they’ll want to repeat.
  • The changes you make will often also enhance a bot’s view of your site, which can raise your SE rankings. It’s really a win-win.

You have three choices. Upgrade all your websites to make them at least reasonably accessible. Make sure all NEW sites and redesigns from here on out are accessible. Ignore all this, and lose money.

Accessibility is not that difficult

Webcredible has 10 tests for accessibility that not only tell you what to look for, but how to fix it. Most of the fixes are incredibly simple and quick, like making sure images have the optimal alt text.  I think this post is a better option than the automated services that scan your website, because they don’t catch everything. By doing it manually, you assure the best results.

Most of my sites were already reasonably accessible – there wasn’t that much work to be done. If you put your site through Wave and only get 3-4 accessibility errors, and none of them actually prevent anyone from getting the full benefit of your site, you’re doing okay.

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