These days, the first place that people look when they want to learn more about your organization is your website. Your website is your first and best chance to create a positive impression with many people, but is it creating a good impression for you with people with disabilities?
Is your website accessible and inclusive? Welcoming to all? Because let me tell you, if families of youth with disabilities get a bad vibe from your website, they’re not even going to both reaching out or trying your program.
While web design is a very detailed subject, there are some some basic and relatively easy things you can do to make your website more accessible to people with disabilities.
1. Keep it simple!
The best thing you can do for accessibility is also the best thing you can do for all your visitors: keep things simple. If you make it easy and intuitive for a new visitor to find their way around your site, you’ll also make it much easier for people with disabilities to find the content they want. So minimize the amount of total pages; choose titles that accurately describe each page’s content; and create redundancies in the site so that there are multiple ways to find information.
2. Make accessibility information prominent.
If you want others to know that accessibility is important to you, make it show! You can have a section of your website that is dedicated to accessibility information, prominently display your inclusion statement, or use photos of participants with disabilities. All of these will show others that you care about accessibility and inclusion, and that they will be welcomed in your program.
3. Provide “alt” text for photos.
Users that are blind will not be able to see your photos, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to know what’s in your photos! For each photo you have on your site, make sure there is a description of that photo included under the title’s “alt” text. Screen readers will read those descriptions to users.
4. Provide captions on all videos.
For users that are hard of hearing, be sure to include captions on any video publicly available on your website. These can be easily added to a video after it has been uploaded to YouTube.
5. Be mindful of Flash animation.
Websites that use lots of Flash animation can be challenging for screen readers to navigate, and they can be visually overwhelming or increase the danger of seizures. By reducing the amount of movement on your homepage, you can make your site easier for everyone to process (and quicker to load!).
If you do use Flash, make sure that whatever information is presented in the animation is also presented elsewhere. Screen readers won’t be able to access that information, so you want to make sure those users aren’t missing key links or content.
6. Use high contrast colors & large font size.
Black text on a white background. White or yellow text on a black background. These options might be visually “boring,” but by being high contrast, they make it easier for user that are low vision or color blind to access your site. Additionally, don’t use a small (< 11) font size on your website. San serif fonts (i.e. Arial, Calibri) are also easier for people to read quickly than serif fonts (i.e. Times New Roman).
Advanced option: Some sites provide users with the ability to change the font size or background color, so users can adjust the size and color contrast to best fit their needs. This takes more work, but is a wonderful addition when possible.
7. When in doubt, refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
If you’re for best practices on accessible web design, the WCAG have been developed for use by web designers looking for benchmarks on how to measure the accessibility of a website. These guidelines are comprehensive, and are increasingly being looked at as the authority on accessible design standards. In fact, the Federal Access Board recently updated the law that requires government agencies to have accessible websites to be benchmarked against WCAG.
So if you’re in doubt about where to turn for more advice…well, you can always call up PYD! But WCAG is a great reference tool as well.