Think about opening a store of your very own. You have amazing widgets to sell, and they’re offered at fantastic prices. With just the right marketing, you hope to have lines of people out the door. But think about this: Would you design the store so that people in wheelchairs couldn’t enter? Or what if they could, but the sales floor was up a flight of steps with no elevator or ramp in sight? Would you turn away all animals in your store, including guide dogs?
The answers to these questions seem obvious. Why would you want to turn away potential customers unnecessarily? With a little forethought and planning, you can welcome as many customers as possible.
The same is true with websites. Many people haven’t thought about persons with disabilities and websites. But there are so many barriers on the internet to people with disabilities that prevent them not only from experiencing websites as designers and developers intended, but even prevent people with disabilities from getting any worthwhile information at all!
Think about the following people with varying abilities, and ponder how they could use a website successfully:
- Someone who’s blind, or perhaps has limited vision
- Someone who has difficulty hearing
- Someone who has limited or no fine motor skills, whether due to paralysis, arthritis, or an injury
Now, think about your website. Is your site designed so that persons with limited vision or blindness can get the information they need? Is your site designed so that persons with no fine motor skills, who don’t operate a mouse, can navigate through your site? A website can be designed with these accommodations in mind. Just like a physical building, it takes a little forethought and planning.
As you are working with your website, below are some basic considerations to make. Talk with your web designer about how your website will include these accommodations. Just adding a few at a time is better than nothing at all. These strategies come from the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). You can access the full document with examples at http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/.
To help individuals who have challenges seeing, make sure that there are text alternatives for graphics that will be read using a screen reader. If you use color to share information, such as in links, provide another indication that for that same information; this is especially important for colorblindness.
For people who may have difficulty with fine motor skills, provide access keys and other methods of navigating that don’t rely exclusively on a mouse. You can also look into scripting that anticipates what a user will enter into online forms to help reduce the amount of typing needed.
As developers build physical stores to make the shopping experience as easy and as enjoyable as possible, you can build your site for ease and enjoyment as well. Your business or organization will benefit!