With a significant proportion of the Australian population being having some form of disability in the way they browse the internet, accessibility is a crucial factor in optimising the user experience of your website.
Accessibility is now a requirement for local, state and federal government websites, but for any website owner, implementing accessibility best practices should also be top priority.
The W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) provides recommendations to make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.
Best practice web development incorporates these accessibility guidelines when a site is built. However, as websites evolve, and new forms of content are added that weren’t being published when the site was built, issues that affect accessibility can creep into your site.
While none can completely replace a human, there are a number of freely-available website evaluation tools that can help to regularly check different elements of your site and maintain accessibility.
1. Website Accessibility Checker
The best place to start is by checking the overall accessibility of your site. The MAUVE validator allows you to check against guidelines for the visually impaired and the WCAG 2.0, on desktop and a multitude of other devices.
Over time, images may be inadvertently added to the site with missing alt tags. Durham University’s Alt Text Checker will display any missing alt attributes.
3. Content Readability
According to WCAG 2.0, the reading level of text should not be more advanced than the lower secondary education level. Use an online Readability Test Tool to check your web content against indices such as Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level. This also allows you to paste content directly into the tool for evaluation before you publish it on your site.
As new digital publishing technologies and trends emerge, content may be added to a website that can cause issues for some users, especially if it involves flashing imagery. The Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT) provided by the University of Wisconsin allows content to be checked to ensure it will not provoke seizures.
Change to CAPTCHA methods that increase accessibility for all users, such as Google’s No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA, which identifies visitors as a non-robot from the outset.
Source: Google Online Security Blog
Not all media players are accessible. Publishing videos on YouTube can be a good option for accessibility, as its default media player is HTML5, which optimises for accessibility. The American Foundation for the Blind has also recently launched an accessible HTML5 video player that website owners can use for publishing video content. From a user experience point of view, accessibility is something that can’t be overlooked. If your site has accessibility issues or fails the tests mentioned in this article, it may be time to call in a professional for assistance and look into redevelopment of your site.