website-accessibility-best-practices-how-to-collaborate-and-ensure-everyone-can-use-your-website

Website Accessibility Best Practices: How to Collaborate and Ensure Everyone Can Use Your Website

With over 1 billion people worldwide living with a disability (according to the World Health Organization), implementing website accessibility best practices can help you tap into this vast audience and create a positive user experience for everyone.

It’s worth mentioning that website accessibility does not only apply to people living with disabilities –  but your entire user base.

Regardless, achieving true accessibility requires collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

In this article, you’ll discover website accessibility best practices and how to effectively collaborate with stakeholders to ensure everyone can use your website.

What Are the 3 Website Accessibility Standards?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most widely recognized accessibility standards. While other guidelines exist for authoring tools (ATAG) and user agents (UAAG), WCAG is primarily used to make web content accessible.

What are the Core Principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?

The WCAG is built on four core principles, often remembered by the acronym POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.  These principles provide a framework for creating websites that are accessible to everyone, regardless of ability.

  • Perceivable: Provide alternative text for images, captions for videos, and clear headings for screen readers.
  • Operable: Ensure the availability of keyboard navigation, focus indicators, and skip-to-content links.
  • Understandable: Use plain language, consistent navigation, and error messages.
  • Robust: Build websites that are compatible with assistive technologies.

Website Accessibility Best Practices

A. Content

  • Use clear and concise language: Avoid technical jargon and complex sentence structures. Also, aim for a writing style that is easy to understand for users with a range of reading abilities.
  • Structure your content: Use headings and subheadings. Headings act like signposts. They guide users through the content and help them find information easily.
  • Provide descriptive alternative text (alt text) for all images: Alt text tells screen readers what the image is about. This allows users who are blind or visually impaired to understand the context of the image.
  • Use semantic HTML when structuring your content: Semantic HTML elements like headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.), paragraphs (<p>), and lists (<ul>, <ol>) convey meaning beyond just visual presentation. This helps screen readers interpret the content accurately and allows for a more accessible user experience.

B. Design

  • Ensure sufficient color contrast between text and background elements:  Low contrast can make text difficult to read – especially for users with visual impairments. Therefore, it’s good to use online tools like WebAIM Contrast Checker or Stark to check your color contrast ratios. When using these tools, aim for a ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text or bold text.
  • Choose clear and readable fonts: Avoid overly decorative or script fonts that can be hard to read – especially for users with dyslexia or low vision. So opt for clean, sans-serif fonts with good legibility at various sizes.
  • Make interactive elements like buttons and links easily identifiable: Use clear labels, distinct visual cues (like hover effects), and sufficient size to ensure users can easily understand and interact with these elements.

C. Functionality

  • Ensure keyboard navigation is possible for all elements on your website: This will enable users who rely on keyboards to navigate – such as those with motor impairments or who use screen readers – to access all interactive elements, including links, buttons, and forms.
  • Provide transcripts and captions for audio and video content: This allows users who are deaf or hard of hearing, or simply anyone who prefers text-based information, to access the content and understand its message.
  •  Use descriptive labels for forms and input fields: Labels should clearly explain what information is needed in each field. This makes it easier for users to fill out forms accurately.

D. Testing 

Regularly test your website with assistive technologies and real-life users to identify and address accessibility issues.

E. Compliance 

Understand and implement relevant accessibility standards like WCAG to ensure a strong foundation for an accessible website.

F. Mobile Accessibility 

Optimize your website for mobile devices since some of your users may be visiting your site from their mobile phones. Optimizing for mobile accessibility includes ensuring touch targets are large enough, using appropriate text sizes, and avoiding content that requires precise gestures.

Note: All the above website accessibility best practices are not only relevant for your internal team when building the site. It’s great to share it with your QA and other testing teams, as well as clients, reviewers, etc – so that they know what to look out for and test.

How to Test and Validate Your Website’s Accessibility

Verifying your website’s accessibility is crucial to ensure a truly inclusive user experience. Here’s a breakdown of key testing and validation methods:

Assistive Technology Testing

Assistive technology testing involves using tools like screen readers, screen magnifiers, and voice control software to experience your website from the perspective of users with disabilities.

This firsthand approach helps identify accessibility barriers that might go unnoticed with traditional testing methods – like keyboard navigation, missing alternative text descriptions for images, unclear screen reader output, and compatibility problems with assistive technologies.

User Testing with People (with Disabilities)

User testing with real-life users (including people with disabilities) goes beyond technical checks and provides real-world insights into how users with various impairments experience your website. Observing users navigate your site and gathering their feedback can reveal usability challenges and areas for improvement you might not have anticipated.

Accessibility Testing Tools

Automated accessibility testing tools can scan your website’s code and identify common accessibility issues like missing alt text, insufficient color contrast errors, and broken keyboard navigation.

This helps save time and resources by automatically identifying potential accessibility problems. 

Some of these tools include Axe by Deque, Lighthouse (by Google), and AVE (WebAIM Wave).

WCAG Conformance Validation

WCAG conformance validation involves testing your website against these guidelines to verify its level of accessibility. WCAG conformance demonstrates your commitment to accessibility best practices and allows you to benchmark your website’s accessibility against established standards. 

You can outsource this task to organizations that offer WCAG conformance testing services, or you can use self-evaluation tools to assess your website’s conformance.

How to Build A Collaborative Process to Ensure Website Accessibility

Appoint an Accessibility Champion

Appoint an Accessibility Champion who can spearhead the collaborative effort, provide training sessions, and act as a central resource for other stakeholders seeking guidance on accessibility best practices.

This dedicated champion can ensure accessibility remains a top priority throughout the website development process.

Set clear goals and timelines for accessibility improvements

Establish clear goals and realistic timelines – considering the needs of all stakeholders. Setting measurable accessibility objectives and outlining timelines for implementation ensures consistent progress toward a more accessible website.

Identify stakeholders involved in website creation and maintenance

Identify all these key players and foster communication and stakeholder collaboration among them.  Some crucial team members to consider include developers, designers, content creators, project managers, QA testers, SMEs, clients, marketing and SEO, users, etc.

Define roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder in accessibility

A successful collaborative approach requires assigning clear roles and responsibilities to each stakeholder involved in website accessibility. By clearly defining these roles and responsibilities, you can ensure everyone on the team understands their part in creating an accessible website.  This fosters accountability and empowers each stakeholder to contribute their expertise towards a shared goal of inclusivity.

Establish ongoing training and awareness programs

Organize training sessions and encourage stakeholders to participate in them.  These sessions can cover the latest accessibility guidelines (WCAG), best practices for different aspects of web development (coding, design, content creation), and how to leverage assistive technologies for testing purposes.

Set up an accessibility testing process

Define a clear process for regular accessibility testing.  This process can involve a combination of automated testing tools, manual testing with assistive technologies, and user testing with people with disabilities.  This multi-method approach helps uncover a wider range of accessibility issues.

Create a Feedback Loop with Users

Create a feedback loop and encourage users to report accessibility barriers they encounter on your website. This valuable feedback helps identify issues missed during testing.

Some steps to take include providing multiple channels for reporting – like a feedback form, email, or social media.

Use visual review and feedback tools that enable everyone to collaborate in one place

While a strong collaborative approach is essential, there are also technological solutions that can streamline accessibility testing efforts and foster communication among team members.

You may already have existing tools for your accessibility testing that you use with internal team members. But how do you collaborate with SMEs and clients, as well as users – in one place?

You need a central design feedback and QA review tool to do that. Some of these tools – like zipBoard – easily integrate with your testing tools and ensure everyone can review the live site, detect issues, and provide feedback on the platform. You, on the other hand, can also review that feedback, prioritize, and assign for resolution – in the same place.

Monitor and update accessibility compliance

Allow regular website audits by QA testers to ensure compliance with evolving accessibility standards. Consequently, developers can fix identified issues to maintain an inclusive website for everyone.

Next Steps

Start making your website accessible today! Even small changes can make a big difference. 

While you’re at it, in case you need a central hub to collaborate with both internal and external stakeholders in one place and also track issues and manage tasks, try zipBoard for free today.




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