Getting your website accessible to everybody can be a tricky and demanding job. The WAI and W3C Web Guideline consortiums along with the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act (which was revised in 2005 specifically to include websites) provide a strict set of guidelines.
When creating the new guidelines in 2005, it also became a legal requirement to make your website accessible to everyone no matter how they approach it. Here are a few tips to start you off in making your website more accessible.
First, and most important is the ‘Text-Only Version’, this is a non-graphical representation of the website, which should be formatted to be larger and easier to read. The Text-Only version can be served by default to web browsers such as Lynx (an aural browser), or can be served once a link is clicked on within the website.
Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with this is ‘Text Resizing’, which is something that most browsers can in fact do by default. This shouldn’t stop you from including easy to use text-resizing links within the main structure of the website, particularly in the textual based version mentioned above. Most browsers will resize the entire website (as a zoom function), this can distort graphics and make certain aspects of the website hard to read, so including a function to resize only the text-based content and leave the graphics intact is an effective method.
‘Access Keys’™ is next on the list, and we’re back to aural browsers in particular again. These browsers rely on well structured website code to allow the user to easily get around. Access Keys are attached to the main links on your website and allow users to use shortcut keys to get around with ease. For example, the main link back to your homepage could have a 0 attached to it; this would allow the user to type a 0 on their keyboard to be automatically transferred back to the homepage.
‘Tab Indexes’™ are also handy for a similar use. Whereas access keys give easy links to certain pages, Tab Indexes tell the browser which order it should be viewing the links in. When the tab key is pressed it will move the focus to the next object within the page – setting these indexes defines the order that these highlighted elements are selected. This means that if your main navigation is further down the page, you can still tell the browser to view it first and most prominently.
Last, but certainly not least is ALT tags. ALT tags are small descriptions which sit within an image and allow users to define what the subject of that image is. ALT tags should be short yet descriptive, and should always be related to the image itself.
These are just some of the ways that you can help to make your website easier to use and more accessible. For more information on web compliance and guidelines please view the further reading links below:
About The Author: Pete is the lead Web Developer for WNW Design, working on the building, coding and development of client websites and WNW™s own Ecommerce and CMS software ‘Mazurka’™. Follow Pete on twitter @pete_wnw or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.