Quick Start Web Accessibility Guide
How to get started on your accessibility journey
First off, let’s talk about why we created this guide. You may or may not be aware, but web accessibility lawsuits have been on the rise over the last decade, and within just the last few years the number has more than doubled. In fact, according to data from Seyfarth Law, ADA Title III Website Accessibility Lawsuits filed between 2017 and 2018 rose by an astounding 177%.
These lawsuits are nothing to brush off, either. They can have serious financial and reputational consequences for any organization.
More importantly, accessibility should never be an afterthought – providing people with the ability to access information is one of the most powerful facets of the internet. And of course, the more people who can access your site, the better it is for you.
The reason that web accessibility too often finds itself lower on the list of priorities is that it can be complicated. Fully understanding the guidelines, knowing how to test a site for those requirements, and recognizing when you’ve achieved compliance can be challenging for anyone who is not well versed in the ADA.
So, how do you get started making your website accessible to every user and compliant with current regulations? Kickstart the process by focusing on the issues that present the biggest barriers but are the easiest to fix – for instance, unlabeled links. When links are unlabeled users who are employing screen readers will hear “link” for each. Imagine if you visited a website to make a purchase but all of the links were titled the same – “link.” You can imagine how difficult it would be to navigate the website.
Fortunately, the fix for this particular issue is simple. All that’s required is adding text to a single line of code. But, as shown above, the lack of these descriptions makes it exceptionally difficult for many people to effectively use or navigate a website.
Below are the most common issues we see with both corporate and governmental clients, and they represent a great starting point for your site’s accessibility.
- Visible Focus – For users who may be browsing the internet by using a keyboard, there is no mouse cursor or arrow displayed on screen as a reference point for their navigation. To accomplish this, all controls on a page—links, buttons, or any type of interactive control—must show that they are the clear focus of the page at that moment. Examples include a visible border (with a sufficient amount of contrast), a vertical bar (used in fields), or highlighted text.
- Skip Navigation – Skip Navigation links allow visitors to your website to bypass blocks or sets of links. This is particularly useful for pages with a lot of content and a table of contents or navigation of some kind at the top. For users who are physically unable to use mice or other pointer devices, Skip Navigation makes it possible to browse the site more easily with the keyboard. Additionally, screen reader tools/software can take advantage of the Skip Navigation to go directly to the content on the page. This is easy to add and can be just 5 lines of code.
- Alternative Image Text – Ensure that all of the images on your pages and site feature clear, concise, and accurate Alternative Image Text. One good way to test whether your text is useful for visually impaired users, for example, is to imagine viewing your site with the monitor turned off, relying solely on a screen reader to describe the image to you. If you could clearly picture an image in your head based on the description in the Alternative Image Text, then it passes this test.
- Links – Unique, descriptive link names are critical to an accessible website for similar reasons to the image text described above. Again, imagine navigating your website with your monitor turned off and screen reader software operating. If your links are clearly named, labeled, and described, you will be able to navigate the site successfully.
- Form Submissions – Any form—for example, medical forms, lead generation pages, checkout pages, and many others—need to clearly indicate any required fields prior to the form being submitted. Each field must be labeled and include a text hint for effective navigability. In addition, any error messages need to be clearly explained and highlighted so that the user can correct the error or complete any missing information.
While many companies are used to relying on third-party agencies to help with tasks such as financial and technology auditing, they may not be aware that similar agencies are available for auditing their websites for compliance issues. We recommend a thorough audit conducted by an agency that is well versed in ADA compliance, and one that can help you create a development or update plan that can make your site compliant and accessible to everyone.