When designing a website, there are a number of factors to take into consideration: overall layout, font choices, navigation, hosting, and more. But one issue that too many web designers overlook is that of accessibility. Many disabled web users rely on tools such as screen readers and other adaptive technologies to access your site, but poor initial design choices can limit their ability to engage with your content.
As a WordPress user, however, there are many simple steps you can take that will improve the experience of all your users. Try these four strategies to improve your site’s accessibility today.
It’s far easier to build an accessible website when you begin with an appropriate format than when you try to work backwards to reengineer preexisting features. That’s why WordPress designers should opt for accessible themes from the start – high contrast themes like Unlimited and those like Simone that use scalable fonts are better for those with diminished sight or who use their keyboards to navigate websites rather than a mouse or track pad.
Consider Your Content
There are few restrictions to what kind of content is accessible, as long as you take the right steps to consider different abilities and limitations. For example, users with visual impairments may not be able to see images on your website, but if you add image descriptions, they can use screen reading technologies to find out what the posted images include.
Similarly, how you handle text on your website can affect your users. Most readers struggle with long blocks of text, so try to break up your content into small sections for easier flow and comprehension. Separating your key points into lists or ordered sections, as seen on this site, can also help those with visual processing deficiencies better manage your content. It’s also helpful for readers who may be unfamiliar with the topic being discussed.
Don’t forget to include transcripts of video or audio recordings on your site for those with hearing impairments or auditory processing disabilities. Yes, transcribing content takes time, but if you consider the content important enough to include on your site, why wouldn’t you take the time to make it accessible to all your users?
Be a Wayfinder
One important accessibility feature your website should include – and one that many advanced designers are not familiar with – is ARIA, or Accessible Rich Internet Applications. A kind of internal landmark, ARIA combines with clean HTML to boost assistive technologies, letting them know where users are on the page and how to proceed. It’s hard to navigate a page using adaptive tools if the page isn’t designed with such internal directives.
Focus On Feedback
Very few websites are spot on with their accessibility features from day one, so don’t worry about being perfect. Instead, do your research, apply what you learn, and then open your site up for feedback – and be sure to listen to it.
Your site should offer different ways for users to provide that feedback, including options like traditional admin messages, site-based chats, and plugins like SpeakPipe that let users record messages for designers and administrators, rather than typing them. Offering different options ensures that users with a range of abilities can guide your efforts as you work to make your site more accessible.
Web development is continually evolving and that means you’ll need to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to available accessibility tools – but this ongoing development is beneficial to you and your users.
As the web develops more adaptive tools, we diversify the communities of content creators, and consumers, and grow together.