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September 25, 2019

Is Your Website Accessible?

You’ve found keywords for all your webpages, updated your titles and meta descriptions, and are on your way to the SEO promised land. Your site is responsive. And fast. It’s easy to read.

But what about accessibility? Furthermore, what is accessibility?

In short, you need to make sure that people with disabilities can use your website. About 15% of the world’s population has a disability. That equals about 1 billion people, and if they can’t access your website, you’re losing business.

Having a non-accessible website can also open you up to litigation. In 2018 the number of lawsuits targeting non-compliant websites and mobile apps increased by 200%.

Your website needs to be functional for people who have visual impediments, including color blindness. People who are visually impaired use screen readers to tell them what’s on the page. If a screen reader can’t tell where your content is, then it’s going to have trouble explaining to the user what your webpages are about.

There are several standards that apply to accessibility:

  • Section 508 requires that you make accommodations for federal employees and members of the public with disabilities accessing government information.
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Accessibility Initiative. It’s a list of guidelines that explain how to develop web content that is accessible.  These standards represent a higher level of accessibility than 508 standards.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations make accommodations for the people with disabilities to access the same services as others. The ADA has no rules or guidance on how a website should be accessible, so in a 2016 case involving the University of California at Berkeley, the U.S. Department of Justice told the university to use the WCAG guidelines to become compliant.

As a private business, you mainly need to be concerned with No. 2. The current WCAG guidelines are at version 2.1, and you want to push your web developers to create a website that meets those standards.

How do you make sure that your website is compliant with these guidelines? Luckily, there are several websites and tools that test your site and tell you whether you are meeting the standards:

  1. The WAVE Website Accessibility Evaluation Tool can check a page on your site to see if it meets WCAG guidelines and will return its results in an easy-to-understand report of things you need to fix on that page. It also features an extension in which you can check any page with the touch of a button.
  2. AChecker will check a webpage, either by you entering a URL, uploading a file or pasting HTML code into it. It will not only find known problems but will show you potential problems you might have with a page.
  3. SortSite is a stand-alone product that scans your entire site for accessibility issues. It also checks for broken links, browser compatibility, SEO, privacy and usability. It isn’t free, though; prices start at $149 for a single-user license.

You can get a full list of accessibility checkers at the W3C site.

Making your site accessible will not only help users with disabilities; by adding simple enhancements such as easy-to-read text on colored backgrounds, adding ALT text to images and avoiding vague instructions such as “click here” will make your website SEO friendly and more usable to everyone.

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