Consider this. Around 15% of people live with a disability.
In light of that, our next principle is focused on ensuring the content you produce is accessible to everyone. This is web accessibility, making sure there is equal access to your website information and services; regardless of the person's ability or equipment.
This brings us back to our number one principle: User first. Does someone with a disability have equal access to your content? Someone with a vision impairment could be using a screen reader–would this work on your site? What about that great new video you've loaded? Is it accessible to someone with a hearing or visual impairment?
Your accessibility checklist
Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled a handy 7-step checklist you can run through when crafting your content. It won’t take long to go through, but will go a long way to ensuring your content is available to everyone.
Make ALT text your friend
ALT text is the useful text that you can provide when you upload or use any image on your site. Best practice is to use an ALT text description for any image used on your website. That way a screen reader knows what information the picture is conveying. For this reason try and make your ALT text descriptive of the picture, rather than generic.
Generic: [alt=“dragon fruit”]
Descriptive: [alt=“dragon fruit sliced in half on a blue plate”]
Many of the principles of writing for accessibility, are simply good writing principles. To make our writing accessible it needs to be in plain English. Think simple sentences, active voice and cutting out any jargon from your writing. If you need to include a few acronyms or technical words, then provide a glossary; or just take them out if you can. Remember long complicated sentences won't impress your users.
Ban the “click here”
A website is often full of links - helping people navigate, make sense of content and of course for SEO purposes. Have you ever created a link that says click here? We have, but for accessibility it's critical that we ban the 'click here' from our sites. Instead each link that you create should mean something to the reader, viewer or listener.
Check your contrast
Someone with poor vision or colour vision deficiency (CVD) will have trouble seeing text against a low contrast background. To help you with this there are free tools like WebAIM Contrast Checker. Remember that your links should also have a visual difference, such as an underline or highlight.
Tables are only for data
Tables are for displaying data as this make sense to screen readers. If your tempted to use a table just to get the layout right (lining up words or creating space on a page) then resist. Remember, if you're using a table then there needs to be a relationship between the data, row and column headings.
Break that text up
Have you chunked content together using the inverted pyramid style (crucial info at the top), and used structured headings to make the content easy to scan? Remember most people scan a page rather than reading word for word, so this is good practice. On the CMS editor side of your page you'll want to ensure that you've used logical heading tags; for example H1 first, H2 second and so on.
Can everyone watch that video?
If you're wanting to use interactive multimedia on your site then best practice is to make sure everyone has access to it. For this you'll want to ensure you're using closed captioning and offering a full transcript. You can see detailed video notes on the W3 site.
“In their shoes” test
When you want to test the accessibility of your content, get started with these two exercises:
1. A 2 minute version - consider the page you've published, now imagine this page without any colour, images, audio or video elements. Can you still make sense of what the page is trying to achieve? Have you missed a couple of pieces of information? This will give you a great starting point for where there might be gaps.
2. 20 minute version - spend 20 minutes browsing your website and content using a device that someone with a disability might use. For example download a free screen reader tool and spend some time on your site. You might like to set yourself a couple of tasks and see how long it takes to achieve these (e.g. buy an item, use a website service). This exercise is great for empathy building and for spotting the accessibility gaps in your site content.
If you'd like to delve into this important topic further, we’ve included a range of resources below to explore. Your number one go-to resource for any accessibility work is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C published the official standards.
The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect. – TIM BERNERS-LEE, Creator of World Wide Web
Accessibility tools, further reading and resources
W3 Resources and articles
W3 Multimedia accessibility
WebAIM Contrast Checker
Chrome Extensions for accessibility
Nibbler - a site checker that gives an accessibility score
Hemingway App - for plain English writing
Plain English writing advice
As well as the external tools above there are modules that you can add directly into your CMS, allowing you to embed accessibility into your natural workflow. Chat to your digital team about this for your CMS. Explore the modules.