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5 Reasons Why Your Website May Not Be Accessible

June 29, 2017

So what things make your site hard for visitors to use? Let’s take a look at 5 common reasons why your site may currently not be as accessible as it could be.

When I speak with organizations about their online presence, one of the most common requests I hear is that they want their website to be “easy to use.” This makes sense. After all, who would want their site to be challenging for visitors to navigate and interact with? Well, the hard truth is that many websites are indeed challenging to use for at least one important demographic – people with a disability.

Website accessibility guidelines like the 508 Standards determine how “information and communication technology…can be accessed by the public and employees with disabilities.” While certain websites are required to adhere to these accessibility standards (Federal websites, as well as sites that receive any funding from Federal agencies), the reality is that all websites should care about accessibility (also known as Digital ADA Compliance) – and all sites can benefit from becoming more accessible!

So what things make your site hard for visitors to use? Let’s take a look at 5 common reasons why your site may currently not be as accessible as it could be.

  1. Images – When a sighted visitor hits your website, one of the things they are sure to be greeted with are images. If a person is vision-impaired, they do not have the same experience with those images. Instead of processing that visual information with their eyes, they rely on software called a screen reader to literally read the content of the site to them. For images, screen readers will use the file’s ALT text as the content it reads. If your site includes ALT tags are that incomplete, or if the text itself does not effectively describe an image, your site will fail an accessibility test. Image ALT text failures are probably the most common (and most easily resolved) accessibility issue that we see on websites.
  2. Link Text – Another aspect of your website that can challenge a screen reader is link text. These are the actual words your site uses to link to other pages on that site or to resources. A screen reader will read that text, which can be a problem if you use a phrase like “Click Here” for your links. A sighted person looking at the website may be able to see that this link is placed next to a short blurb about your company’s people, but a vision impaired customer cannot associate the “Click Here” text with that content because they do not visually see their proximity to each other. When the screen reader reads “Click Here” to them, there is no context to that link. If you instead change the link text to read “Click Here for More on Our People”, you provide context for that link and make it much more relevant to all visitors.
  3. Colors – The use of colors on a site can provide a number of challenges for people with disabilities. Specific combinations of colors can be problematic for visitors with certain forms of color blindness. What may seem like adequate contrast to you may completely fail for someone else, creating a significant barrier to them using your site. Another color failure is if you use those colors as the sole identifier of select information. For example, if you use the color red for alert information, but do not include any kind of appropriate icon or even the word “Alert”. Someone who cannot discern the color red would fail to recognize a possible important alert if that color is the only thing your site does to call out that content.
  4. Sizing – How big should the text on a website be? The right answer to this question largely depends on who is using that site. Someone with vision challenges may need the text to be larger so that they can more easily read it. Similarly, someone with dexterity issues will need text links to be larger than what some other users would be able to easily work with. Ultimately, proper sizing is a challenge that can impact a site’s accessibility.
  5. Documents – Does your website link to documents like PDF files? If so, you may have accessibility issues. If you need to deliver certain content as PDFs, you may also need to provide alternate versions of that content if you want it to be accessible for all visitors.

These are just some of the reasons why a website may fail when measured against accessibility standards. Are you interested in learning more about these accessibility standards, the changes those standards are undergoing, and how to make sure your website is compliant with the new regulations?

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