The world is at your fingertips with just the click of a button… that is if you are able to use a mouse, see a computer screen or hear the audio files. For anyone with a disability, the freedoms we take for granted can be out of reach if you don’t compensate for those disabilities on your website.
The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Most of the principles of accessibility can be easily implemented and will not affect the overall “look and feel” of your site. These simple tips will help to make your site available to visitors with a disability and as an additional benefit will also make your pages more accessible to the search engines which are “blind” to images and only read the text.
2. Add links to descriptive phrases rather than to single words – avoid links on phrases such as “click here” which give no clues as to where the link will take you. Screen readers will read out all links on the page, but links such as “here” or “more” offer no guidance on content. This simple change will also help your website ranking since search engines rate keywords in links more highly than in general text.
3. Give images descriptive file names. Avoid file names such as img09148.jpg and go for nike-air-vapormax-trainers.jpg instead. This gives users of screen readers a clear understanding of what the image shows, and, as before, also attracts the search engines.
Give all images an “alt tag”. This is a tag which is designed to tell you in words what the photo is if it should be missing on the page. It also has the benefit of describing the image to blind or poorly-sighted visitors (and again the search engines!) even if it is present on the page. Screen readers can be set to read out all alt tags. They are also valuable to people who turned off images on their mobile phone to lower bandwidth charges.
4. Divide your pages into sections with correctly tagged headings. This means using the h1 to h6 heading tags rather than simply making the headings larger or giving them a different colour. Screen readers and other assistive technologies (such as voice recognition software) can be set to navigate web pages according to heading structure – but only if they know where the headings are!
The hierarchy of headings can also indicate the importance of the content. An h1 heading should only be used once at the top of the page and should give a clear indication of what the page content is about. You may use an h2 tag several times in order to break up the content into manageable chunks and to indicate what each section contains. The least important areas of information might use an h4 tag
5 Just as images should be labelled for the benefit people who can’t see, audio files should be explained for people who can’t hear. Providing a text transcript of any audio information will make it accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as making it available to search engines that are “deaf” to your page content.