You might have heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to which web content must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. If you happen to believe that complying with all the ADA standards will make your website look unattractive, you have another thing coming.
Thanks to web accessibility, it’s possible for each and every visitor to find the needed information on the website, which in its turn will correspond to ADA requirements.
Today many Internet users suffer from a disability, be it permanent or temporary.
With regard to this, the international nonprofit World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has decided to present the list of recommendations, which aim at making websites accessible to as many users as possible. In their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, they point out the steps that developers are to take so as to meet ADA requirements.
Some people might think that it’ll make a website look worse and hinder its functionality. But actually, no… Rather quite the opposite. Everyone will find it handy and advantageous if a web designer takes a considerate, creative, and careful approach to the development process.
So, when thinking about how you can improve your website accessibility and make it get-at-able for everyone, use these guidelines, which might give you at least a basic understanding of what an ADA-compliant website should look like. Here we go!
1. Make sure that all of your forms are clearly labeled
It’ll prove really convenient for many users to understand which information is supposed to be filled in in the form. In addition to this, try to place all the labels outside the form rather than inside as some of the users with cognitive disabilities may get confused about the field’s assignment.
2. Organize your headings and spacings conveniently
Undoubtedly, it’s much easier when you have the so-called information ranking in front of your eyes. And this can be managed if your website is designed correctly. To ensure that all the users get the due experience and comprehend how all the pieces of information are related to each other, provide your texts, images, and graphics with the relevant headlines and captions.
People with cognitive disorders can find it a bit hard to wade through the badly-structured content. Apart from them, others who are pressed for time and not able to find what they’re looking for at short notice just give up and switch to another website.
So now that you grasp the significance of being able to wield heading styles and element placement on a website. You’ll tremendously relax your audience’s efforts to get acquainted with the website info and make them proceed to action.
3. Think about the color arrangement
Sometimes those who suffer from visual impairments may be prevented from processing information on the website properly. The reasons for such inconvenience may be plain backgrounds, text placement inside an image, or without any contrast against the background. With this in mind, it’s important to take into account such a criterion as a contrast ratio.
It has been mentioned many times that a contrast ratio is regarded as one of the most important image quality metrics. The correct choice of image and text color will contribute to users’ positive experiences and eliminate any troubles. Mind that according to WCAG 2.0, a contrast ratio is required to be at least 4.5:1.
4. Color alone isn’t enough
Yes, regardless of how contradictory it might not sound, it shouldn’t be your one and only beacon. It doesn’t provide a decent amount of information to all the website users.
Try to come up with more web design strategies, which will facilitate communication between you and your users.
5. Provide your users with navigation options
There’s an extremely convenient function — keyboard navigation, which grants you an opportunity to list all the active links available on the webpage by means of the ‘Tab’ key. To make this function accessible and befitting, all the links must be colored depending on their activation status.
Who can benefit from this option? Well, first of all, users who had suffered a stroke with limited mobility as a consequence can make the most of it. Though it’s true to admit that everyone can find it rather useful, especially when the mouse battery is low or the mouse itself is far away, and you don’t feel like reaching it…
6. Make your content more appealing and user-friendly
Having content in different forms (text, audio, image) means that users with various disorders will be able to get acquainted with the information presented on the website without any difficulty.
How can you arrange it? Include audio transcripts, text versions, audio-described versions of videos, visual images, captions – in other words, think of all the possible content manifestations, which can be of great help to everyone.
7. Notify your users about any errors or omissions
Providing feedback to your users is a crucial part of your interaction. Otherwise, they may be bewildered as to why this or that error has occurred. Thus, it’ll be highly appreciated if your users get to know at once what exactly has gone wrong.
Report the error using colors (usually red), text messages, symbols. Also, if possible, provide instructions on how to eliminate this systematic error. Your users will be really grateful for this option as it will enable them to resolve the issue within a few seconds.
8. Provide access to your website from various devices
Some may find it convenient to interact with your website from their mobile, whereas others would prefer to use a desktop or any other platform. It’s a matter of personal preference, as you see.
The difference, however, is that on mobiles, the primary content is structured in one or two columns, with the secondary content accessible through links and icons. A desktop, on the other hand, represents information in multiple columns, using links and visible navigation.
Make sure that line widths and type size won’t ring any alarm bells among people with cognitive or visual disorders.
9. Make the audience feel engaged
It’s a truly salient accomplishment when you make your users feel like part of your website, so to speak. And in the context of ADA compliance, create some special auto-playing audio and video or some other carousels, which will perform not only an entertaining function but will also grant users an opportunity to manage media files on your webpage.
This one will be especially popular among users with cognitive limitations who are not quick enough to get all the information and details and will utilize this option to make pauses where it’s necessary for them.
10. Be their guide – be by their side
Yes, hopefully, this rhyme will help you absorb the substantial principle – to always navigate your users. It’s not only about websites: we need guidance almost everywhere to ensure that we’ll get to the desired result or destination in the long run. And as far as website navigation is concerned, make sure that your website has site search and site maps and that all the information is placed in a consistent order.
Users who suffer from cognitive or neurological challenges need this kind of navigation to be implemented in your design; otherwise, they might get confused by the inconsistent element placement.
So, next time when launching a new website, double-check that it corresponds to all the criteria mentioned above. An ADA-compliant website will be welcomed by all users, without any exception – Mark these words.