Web Accessibility: How to Design Websites for People with Disabilities

Not everyone knows that Australia has a disability prevalence. In fact, one out of every six people in the country has a disability of some sort. This equates to 18 per cent of the country’s entire population of roughly 4.4 million Aussies.

Disability prevalence affects you as a business owner because it means that a sixth of your target audience could be living with a disability. As such, you need to make sure that people with disabilities can find and interact with you online – and you can achieve that through web accessibility. 

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is about designing websites that people with disabilities can perceive, navigate and interact with. Your website should accommodate people with different impairments, including visual, auditory, motor and cognitive.

Moreover, not observing web accessibility can result in a legal problem for your business. Under Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, users with disabilities can sue businesses if they find the website inaccessible. 

With that, it’s imperative that you keep accessibility in mind at the start of your website build. This way, every decision you make in terms of design will be guided by this one principle. 

How to make your website accessible 

Below are some techniques and elements that make your website accessible to people with disabilities.

  1. Structure your content properly

Visually impaired people browse the internet using screen readers, which use text-to-speech technology that reads aloud on-screen information. These devices rely on your content’s heading structure for navigation, so you need to make sure you’re using headings (e.g., <h1>, <h2>) properly. 

Don’t skip heading levels, like going from <h1> straight to <h3>, because screen readers might interpret it as missing content. Additionally, don’t use your headings out of order, as this can mess with the organisation of your content.

A tip: use content management systems that are geared towards web accessibility. One example is WordPress. It has themes or templates that make your content and website structure immediately compliant with accessibility design principles.

  1. Includetext explanations for images and videos 

Because screen reader users can’t perceive images and videos, the device reads aloud the text alternatives provided for the visual assets instead. These text alternatives are provided by you in the form of alt tags and closed captions. 

When creating alt text for images, make sure that it accurately describes the image so that the screen reader user understands how it fits into the context of your content. 

Note that you need to leave alt texts empty for decorative images. If the image isn’t relevant to the copy, don’t put in alt texts to avoid confusing the screen reader.

For videos, provide closed captions and transcripts for the hearing-impaired. Make sure to use closed, not open captions. The latter is inaccessible to screen readers and other reading software because the captions are printed onto the video itself, so they don’t have a separate text file that screen readers can read.

  1. Give your links descriptive names

Screen reader users depend on the text of your link to find out where it leads. This means that calls-to-action (CTAs) like ‘Click here and ‘Read more’ are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Use descriptive text instead of generic ones to let readers know where the link leads to even before clicking on it. This is helpful even for people without disabilities because they’d know what to expect on the page they’re heading to. 

Some examples of accessible link CTAs are ‘Fill out our online form’ and ‘Read about our company.’

  1. Design your forms for accessibility

Lastly, make your forms accessible by formatting them properly and labelling each field appropriately. People with disabilities rely on the label descriptions to know what kind of information goes into which field, so make sure to provide well-positioned, descriptive labels for each. For example, two boxes labelled ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’ are helpful for the visually impaired.

The format of your form also matters. Group the fields according to the kind of information they’re seeking. For instance, the boxes for name, age and gender can be grouped together under ‘Personal Information.’

Additionally, make sure your forms can be filled out using only a keyboard, so users can move from one field to the next using the Tab button.

Designing Accessible Websites 

Web accessibility is about making your website usable for people who can’t perceive things the same way abled people do. It can be difficult to achieve since we’re not familiar with the struggles people with disabilities have when navigating websites.

To make sure your website is accessible to everyone, work with a web designer with ample experience in this kind of website build. Web designers follow principles and standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium and other accessibility organisations to create websites that everyone can easily use and understand. 

If you need help in making your website more accessible, ZipZipeis here to guide you. We’re a digital marketing agency providing businesses of all sizes with a range of services, including web design. We’ll create a website that’s accessible to people with disabilities, helping you achieve your goal of inclusivity.

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