It’s so important to make websites more human, starting with acknowledging and appreciating the differences we all possess. This means focusing on accessibility and making your website usable by as many people as possible, regardless of ability or skill set.
Many web developers focus on improving web accessibility by paying particular attention to navigation, using alt text for images and captions for videos, enabling keyboard navigation, and choosing color palettes carefully. But there’s even more you can do to execute accessibility while developing a website.
Here’s how to implement accessibility in web development effectively.
Get to Know Your Target Audience
Getting to know your target audience is the first step to successfully implementing accessibility in web development. Get to know the specific accessibility needs of your particular audience and optimize your site for them.
For example, let’s say a considerable amount of your users are living with a visual impairment like blindness or another vision-related challenge. In that case, you can implement features and functions that make it easier for them to navigate your website, like ensuring compatibility with screen magnification and voice recognition software.
Aside from demographic and general information about your target audience, dive deep into the disabilities they’re living with, their skillsets, and how they navigate digital platforms while living with a disability.
Next, educate yourself and your team on accessibility requirements.
Learn Accessibility Requirements
To implement accessibility in web development, you must know the main accessibility requirements. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 offer the most current accessibility guidelines to date.
Each person on your web development team will grasp these guidelines at a different pace, but it’s best to encourage everyone to take their time through each one. Document what you learn about these guidelines and ensure everything is broken down so that it’s simple to understand why the guideline is important and how to implement it on your website.
With these accessibility guidelines in mind, the next step is to do an accessibility audit.
Do an Accessibility Audit
You don’t have to wait until your web application is finished before conducting an accessibility audit. Instead, it’s better to do multiple accessibility audits throughout the development process.
To do an accessibility audit, first, refer to your documentation on accessibility requirements and make a list of elements to test and review.
Next, use an accessibility scan to get you started. This tool won’t cover everything. However, it can help you identify some of the most prominent accessibility issues on your website and give you suggestions on how to improve them.
Finally, because you’re likely creating multiple web pages using templates, it’s best to do your audits on page templates instead of each page.
When your website is nearing its final version, have individuals living with a disability test it.
Have Individuals Living With a Disability Test Your Website
One of the best ways to see if you’re on track with accessibility is to allow users living with a disability to test your site. The goal is to determine whether or not your site is helping or hurting those that need accessibility support.
So, throughout the web development process, enlist the help of test users living with various disabilities, accessibility challenges, and ranges of abilities.
Document how they navigate and engage with your website. Record their feedback. You can give them a set of questions to answer. Or sit down with them and have an open discussion about what works.
It’s also crucial to ensure you’re paying attention to whether your website is compatible with assistive technology.
Ensure Compatibility with Assistive Technology
Millions of people living with a disability rely on assistive technology to navigate websites and other digital platforms. Addressing this during the web development process can ensure the final product is as accessible as possible.
Examples of assistive technology are:
- Apps that read text aloud
- Alternative keyboards
- Annotation tools
- Touch Screens
- Screen readers
- Large print materials
- Mobility aids
- Reading pens
Have your user test group above or individuals on your web development team test your website with these devices to ensure everything works smoothly with them.
If implementing accessibility in web development is a bit more complicated than you expected, enlist the help of a professional.
Enlist the Help of an Accessibility Professional
Web accessibility is one of the most complex subjects to understand. Your team already has a lot to do in the development process. So, learning the ins and outs of accessibility may not be possible for everyone.
Enlisting the help of an accessibility professional may be the only way to ensure the final product is more accessible to all groups of people.
An accessibility professional can:
- Oversee web accessibility throughout the life of the web development project
- Pinpoint specific accessibility issues to address in each stage
- Provide guidance on fixing each accessibility issue
- Work with each person on your development team to educate them on accessibility guidelines and best practices
- Facilitate group meetings on implementing accessibility in the web development process
- Put together feedback questions or guides for the testing stage that address accessibility
Lastly, refine and adjust throughout the web development process.
Refine and Adjust Throughout the Web Development Process
Simply put, implementing accessibility in web development must be an ongoing thing. Your team should be addressing accessibility throughout the entire web development process.
You can create intentional accessibility checkpoints to let your team know when to stop and audit accessibility. You could check accessibility whenever a critical task or part of the project is completed. Or you can schedule accessibility meetings at different points in your project lifecycle and address accessibility that way.
Implementing accessibility in web development is a must if you want to make your final product available to everyone in your target audience, regardless of skill, ability, or circumstance. Implement the tips above to ensure your web development team puts accessibility at the forefront of everything they do.
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.