3 min read03-12-2020

Accessible web design explained

DesignContent

Chances are you want your website, video, or other content to be viewed by as many people as possible. To achieve that, it is good to take accessibility into account. A common misconception is that accessibility is about disability. It's actually about universal design. Universal design benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities.

Let's talk about some of the usability obstacles people with disabilities face when trying to access content on the web.

Visual

To properly access your content online, people with visual disabilities may require a screen reader or magnification software and will likely rely on a keyboard more heavily than a mouse. There are simple ways to design your content to meet the requirements of these tools and help these people access your content.

Also, color contrast is important which is often an overlooked web accessibility problem. People who have low vision could find it difficult to read text from a background color if it has low contrast.

Try to use different textures, as opposed to multiple colors, for elements that require emphasis. For example, it might be difficult for color-blind users to read graphs and charts. In this case, it’s better to use contrasting patterns and, where possible, place text instead.

Accessible web design explained

According to the W3C, the contrast ratio between text and its background should be at least 4.5 to 1 (conformance level AA.) The ratios become more forgiving with larger and heavier fonts since they’re easier to read at lower contrast.

Auditory

Let's say you have a video with audio on your website. Transcripts and closed captions are required to give people with hearing impairment the same content. The inclusion of descriptive audio events would give a complete experience.

Mobility

Not everyone can access your content in the same way. Some people rely on a keyboard only or may use a specialized device to navigate your content. Some simple forethought in designing your content around these needs makes a huge difference.

Cognitive

When you approach the design of your content, it's important to be inclusive of people with cognitive disabilities. Keep your content and design simple, concise, and easy to understand.

As mentioned earlier, accessible Universal Design benefits everyone. For example, when you're watching a video in a loud environment, or where you can't hear the audio, the inclusion of transcripts and closed captions provide a better experience.

WCAG

There's an established set of guidelines called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. The WCAG outlines three levels of accessibility standards A, AA, and AAA.

Level-A is essential for Universal Design. Level-AA provides enhanced accessibility and includes or enhances level requirements. Level-AAA is the highest level of accessibility and includes or enhances both A and AA requirements. For example, to comply with AAA, you would provide sign language video for all video content that includes audio.

Sometimes we forget to make our websites more user friendly. It's nice to include as many people as possible for your content. Not only does it help disabled people, but it could help in different circumstances, for example, a loud environment.


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