Seven Tips for Accessible Website Design

Posted on Aug 31, 2016

0831_Accessibility_BlogImage2Nearly one in five Americans has a disability, including some of your consumers. Are you doing your best to make sure everyone—no matter their abilities—can get information from your website?

Screen-reading software helps people with visual disabilities understand text and pictures, but what happens when the software searches for links and reads off a list of, “Click here or click here or click here…” instead of telling the consumer what each link leads to?

Website visitors with motor disabilities can use special keyboards or software to control a computer with nothing more than eye movement. Imagine how frustrating it would be to try to click on a slideshow image only to have the slideshow advance to the next image before you are done.

Websites must be able to work with specialized software. Use these seven design tips to help everyone use your website:

  1. Simple, Clear Navigation
    Place a few buttons with the most common tasks in a prominent place, with words under each button clearly explaining the action. For example: Manage Account, Make a Payment, Report an Outage, Before You Dig, Latest News.
  1. Rich-text Documents (vs. PDFs)
    PDFs present a problem for vision-impaired readers. Since most PDFs are one big image, screen-reading software cannot read them. Consumers using text-enlargement programs are also out of luck. Publish documents in HTML or another rich-text format in addition to a PDF.
  1. Unique Link Language
    Instead of saying “Click here” for a link, explain where a link goes. Screen-reading software can be used to scan for links. Make sure your hyperlink text is clear, unique and descriptive. Example: Instead of, “Click here to learn more about us,” use, “To learn more about us, read our history page.”
  1. Avoid Text Overlays
    Remove graphics with text overlays. Instead, place blocks of text below images.
  1. Slideshow Advance Option
    Do you use a slideshow with marketing messages? Instead of automatically scrolling messages, design slideshows to advance only when an arrow is clicked…. Or better yet, do not use slideshows at all.
  1. Image Tags
    When you upload an image to your website, add a caption and alternate text. The text should explain what the image conveys. Include any text from the picture. Keep in mind this is an ongoing process. Train everyone who maintains the website on image tagging.
  1. Headline Order
    Most website content editors let you pick a type style. Be careful with headlines. Only use Headline 1 for page titles. Although Headline 3 might look better visually than Headline 2, never skip a level in body copy. Screen readers assume content is missing.

Want to spread the word about these tips? Share this post or download our accessibility brochure.

Keep in mind these pointers are the tip of the iceberg. To learn more about accessible design challenges and solutions, visit our website support page, read our archived blog posts or email us. You can also stop by Ruralite’s table at the Northwest Communications and Energy Innovations Conference in Missoula, Montana to learn how to develop a responsive, accessible and reliable website.

1 Comment

  1. We’ve been working on making these changes this year in order to be in compliance by the deadline. Good tips and nice summary for those who are looking at where they should start.

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