How Accessible is Your Website?

Posted on 01/02/2012 by Team Hallam

Website AccessibilityThe Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has been making the news recently after it was announced that the charity would be suing budget airline BMI Baby over its website’s accessibility – or lack thereof – for blind or partially sighted people.

The RNIB is furious that its recommendations for improving accessibility on BMI Baby’s site have been ignored. At the moment, the only real option for visually impaired people is to call the telephone booking system, making it hard for them to compare flight times and prices.

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), websites cannot discriminate against disabled users by making content inaccessible to them.

But accessibility doesn’t just relate to users with disabilities. Other people who might have problems accessing your content are older people, mobile users, or users in areas with poor Internet connection. So, here are 4 things you should be doing to make your website more accessible to users with disabilities, and by extension create a more pleasant user experience for all your visitors:

1. Use Image ALT tags

ALT tags are the text that sits behind images. Search engines can’t read images so they rely on ALT tags to understand what an image shows. But SEO is not the only reason you need to put ALT tags on your images – users with screen readers rely on this text too. If you  don’t have descriptive ALT text behind your images, you are making your website very difficult to use for visitors with visual problems.

2. Provide video or audio transcripts

If you’ve got video or audio files on your site, such as product demos or interviews, you need to provide transcripts for deaf or hard of hearing visitors. Transcripts are also useful for other users who, for whatever reason, cannot listen to sound, for example  if they’re at work, or don’t have an audio player on their computer.

3. Make sure links make sense out of context

Some assistive devices show links separately, so you should never use “click here” or “more info”. You must make it clear where visitors are going to end up if they click on a link. Use anchor text links (i.e. read more about website accessibility) rather than URLs.

4. Have a clear navigation system

Make sure that your navigation is easily identifiable, is clear, and appears on every page of your website. Users rely on the navigation to find their way around, and if it’s confusing, visitors, particularly those with learning disabilities or cognitive difficulties, might struggle to understand it.

For more info, here is a very helpful (and detailed) post on how to make your website more accessible, which lists 25 things you can do to improve accessibility.

Further reading:

10 Simple Tips to Improve Your Contact Form Enquiries

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