How can I make my website more accessible? UX Question #86

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Rosemary from Toledo, Ohio, asks: How can I make my website more accessible?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Rosemary. This is UX Question number 86 and I am Ben Judy.

How can I make my website more accessible? Fortunately, there are some great resources online that can help you get started–even if you are unfamiliar with a11y, as we sometimes shorten accessibility.

I would start with the Web Accessibility Initiative website, the WAI. Links are in the description. This is a section of the W3C website, the World Wide Web Consortium, so it comes from the same global community that establishes standards for HTML and CSS, and best practices for web privacy and security, and so forth.

On the WAI website, you’ll find a Resources page with a section devoted to tools for testing and evaluating the accessibility of your site. There are step-by-step instructions for conducting a quick and easy initial check. There’s also a list of accessibility evaluation software, and tools for conducting conformance evaluations and templates for generating reports.

But you’re probably wondering, what are the criteria for evaluating a website’s accessibility? How do you objectively measure it? The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG is the answer. This is a clear set of success criteria that your website will pass or fail to determine if it is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.

For example, WCAG level AA criteria 1.4.3 checks for minimum color Contrast. It says, “The visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1,” except for Large Text, Incidental Text, or Logotypes.

So you can conduct your own, manual audit of a website based on the WCAG guidelines.

You can also use automated tools such as browser extensions and dedicated software applications that will crawl a website’s underlying code and existing content, and flag errors based on the WCAG guidelines. These can provide a great starting point and can save you a lot of time. However, they can’t catch every error, since they can’t understand context or evaluate content quality.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What is the history of UX?

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