Best Practices on How to Create a Fully Accessible Website

It's a given that we all want to have as many site visitors to our website as possible. Nowadays, designing and developing websites have morphed from highly creative aesthetics to functional features with faster page speeds. There is a recent game-changer though, one that is too expensive to ignore: creating websites with accessibility in mind.


The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent report on disability shows that approximately 15% of people endure some kind of disability. With today’s aging generation and with the rapid spread of chronic diseases (including autoimmune disorders), the need to remove barriers on the web is no longer inescapable.


While the initial thought that comes to mind when talking about accessibility is to cater to the disabled, web page accessibility is for everyone's benefit. The concept of web accessibility was initiated with the intent to eliminate possible online barriers that prevent anyone (especially those with disabilities) to access or interact on the web. Moreover, with the rising global awareness in accommodating people with disabilities, several regulations are being passed that benefits these users. And this is why you need to start considering ADA compliance audit and web accessibility.


Why Accessibility is Becoming More and More Important

Accessibility is increasingly important as it provides equal opportunity and access to everyone, especially to people suffering some form of disability. It gives them unhampered access and encourages an environment of mutual respect and equal opportunities for all.


The web, for instance, has become an important resource that needs to be accessible to everyone. An accessible web can particularly help people with disabilities—it can even tremendously improve their daily lives. Online accessibility can help people suffering all forms of disability (whether permanent, temporary, situational or conditional disability) to take advantage of conveniently accessing information, make online purchases or request a service.


Unfortunately, in this highly digital age, there are still many online barriers that prevent many users to easily navigate or use the web. Insert WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)—the group that initiated the concept of web accessibility. The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines which provide rules or standards for people developing websites. Many countries have adopted these standards by enacting regulations, policies or online accessibility best practices.


Defining Web Accessibility

But before we dive into creating a fully accessible site, let's first have a brief of what web accessibility is all about.


Simply put, web accessibility is the inclusive practice of making sure there are no barriers that prevent interaction with website on the web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed. Moreover, an accessible website should also work well with all assistive devices.


An accessible site, in general, has a universal design. Its design requires minimum effort from the user. It should also be user-friendly and provide a better online experience for everyone.

Application of Web Accessibility

The implementation of web accessibility, contrary to popular belief, isn't necessarily difficult nor expensive. The universal design website standard is already an accessible design. It recognizes that users have a diverse set of needs. So, during the initial design of your website, consider its fundamental values.


Simply combining and following the usability principles and standards of web accessibility will result in an accessible website. You can start by implementing the following rules:


-   Use a Large Clickable Area for Touch Controls

Avoid using small clickable targets as this has been proven to be troublesome for people with limited motor movements, people with visual problems and even people with large fingers sizes. Instead, use large clicking targets and enable resizable text too that doesn't break your site. It's recommended to use a 40x40 pt. clickable area for touch controls.

-   Prioritize Text Clarity

Prioritize text clarity to avoid people with visual problems encountering difficulty in perceiving the text or text blocks of your web content.

-   Avoid Relying Exclusively on Color

There are approximately 300 million color-blind people, so relying exclusively on colors isn’t a good idea. When designing buttons, cards, and other web features/elements, a good practice is to add labels too instead of exclusively using colors. Moreover, choose your color palette and color contrast carefully as aside from visual impairment, some users have concentration issues and color-related psychological sensitivities.

-   Descriptive Link Text

Help users determine one link from another by describing all links in the text. This facilitates clarity and usability especially for those using assistive devices. Moreover, underline all clickable links and avoid using link shortening.

-   Order Content in HTML for Screen Readers

Essentially, content should be structured in a logical order so that screen reader users can better understand it. When ordering your content, do so in HTML, and disable CSS and JavaScript. This will allow you to better assess if your content is accessible.

-   Support Keyboard Navigation

Ensure that your site doesn't require the use of a mouse by enabling full keyboard navigation in your web design. You should allow tab-order navigation, navigation with arrow-key movement, and retain text anchors for all your clickable links.

-   Don’t Forget to Follow the Accessibility Checklist

While the above practices will help you have an accessible site, it is not fully comprehensive. More accessibility barriers need to be addressed and the best way you can do is to follow extensive resources such as the WCAG. Accessibility checklist outlines the details on how to make your website accessible. These are complete and internationally recognized standards too.


Accessibility Guide and Accessibility Statement

An accessibility statement serves as your public declaration that you intend to fulfill the principles of web accessibility. It shows your intention to incorporate accessibility features to make your site usable and navigable to everyone. When publishing an Accessibility Guide and Statement, make it concise and substantive.


Usability & Accessibility Testing

Usability testing refers to the evaluation of the usefulness of your website. It's usually based on several criteria such as learnability, efficiency, memorability and user satisfaction.


Accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing and usually involves tools or real people (with some form of disability) to test the accessibility of your website.


Final Thoughts

Web accessibility facilitates an equal opportunity to everyone in accessing the web without fear of encountering difficulties. Indeed, to effectively create a fully accessible site, you should try to place yourself in the shoes of your users. This will allow you to view your site from the perspective of your users thereby enabling you to see their needs.