With the sheer amount of technology we interact with on a daily basis, website accessibility is now more important than ever. Studies have shown that there are over 14.1 million disabled people throughout the UK, with a staggering 46% of them being pension-age adults. The total spending power of families with at least one disabled family member is estimated to be roughly £274 billion every year. Much of this goes towards purchasing technology and software that helps them interact with computers. This is because, even with over 20% of the UK population falling into the category of disabled, the majority of websites are simply inaccessible for many disabled users. This is where website accessibility comes in.

What is website accessibility?

The term website accessibility encompasses website tools and technologies that are designed and developed to enable a wide range of people living with disabilities to easily access the web. These disabilities might include, but are not limited to:

• Auditory
• Cognitive
• Neurological
• Physical
• Speech
• Visual

This might indicate that a sizeable overhaul could be required to bring your website up to W3C (world-wide-web consortium) standards. But don't worry, even simple things can go a long way to improving the overall quality of your website. Below are our top five tips that you can implement now to improve your website’s accessibility.

Add in alt text

The simplest and easiest way to implement accessibility changes is using alt text. Also referred to as alt tags, it's descriptive text that accompanies an image but isn't usual visible on the page. If an image fails to load, then it is used in it's place to describe what the image should be. The important thing is that  it's also used by the visually impaired.

Website pictures often become hurdles for them, typically causing problems for screen readers or a disconnect for the lister with the page content. Adding descriptive alt text to an image means that screen readers can describe the image to visually impaired visitors. This helps disabled users to visually picture any images and enhance their interaction with the page content overall.

Increased font size

Another simple change, offering an enlarged font option for users who are browsing your website can instantly enhance readability. Thick fonts are also better overall as they help to clearly define words, and black text on a white background has proved to be the most readable colour combination for website text.

Again, this is especially helpful for visually impaired users, specifically those who might not require the use of a screen reader. On top of this, a clear site layout and design will make navigation easier, as will including large links, boxes, and buttons that are obvious to the viewer.

Enhanced keyboard and voice navigation

Before the invention of the mouse, the keyboard was the only way to navigate early computers. This skill has become almost non-existent in recent years but is vital for those with physical impairment or chronic pain issues who are unable to use a mouse. Allowing the use of the tab key and other command combinations will allow users to freely navigate your pages with minimal issue.

Speech recognition is also a handy tool to incorporate and far easier to implement with modern technology, letting the user navigate the website by voice alone.

Avoid using tables

Unfortunately, much of the current text to speech recognition software often has difficulty recognising tables and columns built within a page’s structure. If possible, reducing the number of tables and columns on your site will massively improve the functionality of a user’s speech software. This will make them more likely to use your site in the future.

Update as you go

While all of the above changes may require you to go back in and edit your site structure, the following additions can be implemented as you develop or improve your site. For example, when adding new video content, you can transcribe the audio and insert it below. Or if you write a new blog post, be sure to add alt text to your images. This will help individuals consume your content more easily.

It can also be useful to take into account the colour and contrast level of your site. Having more muted and stable colours will help reduce the possibility of people suffering from neurological and cognitive issues experiencing any form of seizure. But make sure that the contrast between the font colour and background colour is high enough for it to be readable. Adding in a monochrome option can also be highly beneficial for those that are colour blind.

There are many other ways to improve the accessibility of your website and its interaction with accessibility tools. All of these can be found on the W3C website and WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) 2.0.

Implementing these changes early and often will go a long way to improving your website overall. For more information on enhancing other areas of your website and tips for navigating the online world, take a look at our blog. Or, if you’re looking to create your own new accessible website, find out more about our web hosting and domain name products.