One in five U.S. citizens has a disability that prevents them from accessing websites effectively, and many struggle to visit local government websites to complete tasks like paying utility bills, applying for permits, or registering for community events. With the latest WCAG 2.0 standards refresh, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re not excluding these users from accessing your website.
In our last webinar of the series 18 Minutes to Get You Ready for January 18, 2018, we outlined some of the main ways you can make your website accessible. Please be aware that the following suggestions are not a full coverage of everything you need to do to make your site accessible.
Headings act as the outline of your webpage by providing structure to the content, clearly describe the information that follows it, and allow users (whether they have a disability or not) to navigate the page section by section. Screen readers, specifically, go from heading to heading via keyboard shortcuts – just like how the TAB key goes from link to link.
When structuring headings, it’s important to remember:
- Heading levels must be used in order and levels should not be skipped.
- Every page should have an H1 heading, telling users what the page is about.
- Increased font size, bold elements, or a different text color are not substitutes for proper headings.
Links are a great way to redirect users to relevant information that’s on another page, website or document. However, it’s essential to use the right words or phrases so that users know where the link will take them. Have you ever come across a link that just tells you to “click here”? While this is obvious for most users, it’s actually difficult for people who use screen readers because they won’t know where “here” is.
When using hyperlinked text, always remember:
- The text needs to provide context and purpose for the link so the link can stand by itself when read aloud
- Linked text should always be descriptive and include relevant information
- Users should be able to figure out the link’s destination without having to read all the text around it
Read our recent blog post on Why “Click Here” Links Are Bad to learn why they’re inaccessible.
Alt Text for Images
Images are great for conveying information in a graphical way, but they. However, an image is meaningless to someone who’s blind because screen readers will only look for alternative text (alt text or alt tag). Alt tags are also displayed if an image cannot load properly. Therefore, even if an image doesn’t show on the page, users can still see and get the general idea of what the image is about.
The following points are important to remember when using images on your website along with alt text:
- You only need alternative text if the image is relevant to the context of the content surrounding it. If the image is considered decorative, no alt text is needed, and therefore, a screen reader won’t read it.
- There’s no need to include “Picture of” in the alt text because a screen reader will already read the image as such.
- Text in images cannot be read by screen readers, so it’s wise to include a longer description that includes all of the text that’s in the image.
Portable Document Format files (PDF) are usually the biggest risks because the latest Section 508 refresh doesn’t allow for inaccessible scanned documents. In fact, there are not a lot of good reasons to include PDFs on your website because oftentimes, screen readers can’t read the text aloud and users need to print PDF forms in order to fill them out, rendering them virtually useless.Instead, you should consider putting information in PDF files into your content management system (CMS) as a webpage or an online form because the information will be:
Accessible to screen readers
Responsive and viewable on any device
Can be made bigger or smaller, depending on the user’s preference
Easier to update
Indexed by Google
While optical character recognition software (OCR) can scan a document and convert it to type text, it’s not always 100% accurate. Therefore, we recommend using fillable forms or your CMS’ tools to make your documents viewable and accessible.