If you ever built or designed a website, you know much thought goes into creating said site. Yet certain elements often still go overlooked. For instance, handicap accessibility. This week’s Handicap This guest blogger Nathan Winne explores how to fix and avoid these oversights. Nathan serves as the COO of Company 119 , a website design and Internet marketing company.
When most people think about designing something that’s accessible to those with a handicap, buildings and physical structures are typically the first items that come to mind. However in a time when the Internet and intangible technology is growing and changing at a quickening pace, it’s more important than ever to make sure your website is designed to be accessible to everyone. That includes those with disabilities.
Not only can accessible website design have legal implications, (Netflix and Target are just two companies that have had lawsuits filed against them for inaccessible websites), but it makes great business sense. The more accessible and usable your site is to a greater range of people, the greater the ability to drive them through your site and convert them into a customer or fan.
That said here’s a list of five things that I look at as a website designer to make sure that our sites are accessible to as many people as possible, no matter the disability. You can use these questions to double-check your own site’s design and development.
Â· Is my site screen reader compatible? Screen readers (third party software that is used to convert written text on a website into audio for visually impaired viewers) have been around for a while, but there are literally millions of sites that aren’t compatible with the technology. Make sure your site works with this technology by avoiding complex code and by displaying actual text, rather than images or Flash animations where the content appears. Not only is this good standard for accessibility, but it can also help for SEO (search engine optimization) in that it allows Google and other search engines to read what’s on your site.
Â· Have I included closed captioning for video viewers with hearing issues? Nowadays, video is becoming more and more prominent on a growing number of websites. Having closed captioning or a sign language interpreted version available allows more people to be able to view your videos. YouTube offers a closed captioning option on its videos that can be enabled in the settings of each video. So if you’re embedding a YouTube video on your site, you might already have this ability.
Â· Did I include any flashing images in my design or video? Flashing or strobe images can cause seizures. You’ll want to either eliminate that type of image from your design or site entirely, or make them optional.
Â· Is the content clear? Be careful not to use overly complex language, or technical jargon that you might throw around in your industry day-to-day. Offering clear content that suits your target market, with diagrams for complex subjects, is great for those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. A neat way to do this is with visual infographics. Not only can infographics be great looking design pieces, but they can present critical information in a unique and interesting way.
Â· Did I include large, underlined links? When the links on a page are large and are underlined, those who have motor control issues or who are color blind can better find and click on them. It’s an easy fix to let more people take advantage of your site and discover more about the products and services you offer.
It’s important to remember that crafting an accessible website for everyone is not just fair, it’s good business. Elements of accessible web design typically don’t take much, if any, more time to incorporate. Yet they do enable your site to open the door to many new potential customers. Just keep accessibility in mind and attempt to stay aware of what will work for those with disabilities and what won’t.
About the Author:
Nathan Winne is the COO of Company 119, an Ohio-based Internet marketing company that specializes in helping small and midsize businesses (SMB) maximize their Internet presence and increase sales. When Nathan is not at work, you can typically find him racing Hondas or playing with his boxer Epona.