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A roadmap for improving your website’s accessibility

Mar 24, 2021

By Billy Collins

Web accessibility is having something of a moment right now, due almost entirely to difficulties seniors and people with disabilities are having using websites to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Kaiser Health recently published the results of an investigation, which found:

“Many covid vaccination registration and information websites at the federal, state and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability of blind people to sign up for a potentially lifesaving vaccine.”

While there is nothing unique about vaccination registration websites failing to meet the diverse needs of their many users, this current moment is a universal case study about which organizations have been able to heed the call to develop and design more accessible websites.

As with any user experience discussion, it is far easier and cheaper to invest in accessibility tools and processes before designing and developing a website than it is to try and implement accessibility after a website has gone live. Most organizations don’t have the luxury of paying for a website rebuild every time new technologies, design patterns and standards become available. So, it can be helpful to understand how you can bring accessibility into the mix at various stages of a website project so that you can be sure your website meets the needs of every user.

Plan for accessibility — Know your users

Knowing exactly how many web and mobile users leverage assistive technologies isn’t an exact science. The National Federation of the Blind reports on several different estimates that can help you understand the presence of visual impairments of many kinds at the population level, for example. However, a visual disability is one of many reasons users might have trouble navigating less accessible websites.

While every organization should plan to implement accessibility best practices when designing their next website, it can be helpful to understand the unique need of your particular audience, with a focus on the specific actions your users hope to accomplish on your website.

It’s one thing to ensure your blog posts are easily parsed by screen readers. It’s another thing entirely to build a custom COVID-19 appointment registration flow that combines multiple elements of assistive technologies into a seamless experiences.

Design for accessibility — Know your options

Designers have two main roles as it pertains to website accessibility.

The first is to help ensure that the visual architecture of a website implies a hierarchy that is easy to parse for humans and for screen readers alike. Disorganized content makes websites and pages difficult to comprehend and nearly impossible to gather meaning from. Second, designers have a variety of tools at their disposal to check that color contrast ratios are adhered to during the design process. A common problem organizations will encounter is when their brand styles do not allow for adequate color contrast on the web or in print. When considering updates to your website, it pays to check that your brand colors and styles enable accessible content.

Develop for accessibility — Know your platform and possibilities

We could devote a multi-part series to accessible development practices. When considering accessibility in development, it helps to start with platform considerations. For example, building accessibility into a basic theme-driven WordPress website will be different from a fully customized web application. Some development platforms offer tools that help developers add elements to their code that will aid in accessibility.

Test for accessibility — Know your avenues

You have two basic avenues you can take when testing to see if you website is accessible.

First, human testers are a strong and necessary first step to validating that your website is accessible. Quality assurance testers can use screen readers and other manual tools to ensure the website works as expected in various scenarios and help developers understand what could be changed to improve the quality of the site.

Second, many companies have rolled out automated and AI-powered accessibility tools that can provide efficient and granular insights into the accessibility of your website.

How Wipfli can help

Accessible design and development pays off since it positively impacts every user of your website, from visual appeal to performance. Our team can help upgrade your systems to meet

For more insight on how we can help your organization evolve its web presence to be more accessible, please contact us.

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A beginner's guide to designing for accessibility
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