Digital accessibility is based on four broad principles, enabling online content to be more accessible, according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). According to these principles, the online content must be POUR:
- Perceivable: Users should be able to perceive the digital content through sight, sound, and touch.
- Operable: The digital content should work regardless of the technology a user may utilize to access it.
- Understandable: Present digital content in straightforward, clear language for the user’s understanding.
- Robust: The digital content must be robust and comply with the established web conventions and standards.
Here are a few tips to help fulfill the goals of digital accessibility by following the above-listed principles.
Select a CMS that supports accessibility
Website developers have several content management systems (CMS) options, such as WordPress and Drupal. Make sure you choose a CMS that best meets the standards of digital accessibility. After choosing the CMS, the next step is to select a template or theme that is accessible. Check out the theme’s notes and tips for creating accessibility layouts and content. Adhere to the same guidelines while choosing modules, widgets, and plug-ins.
WordPress has a dedicated accessibility team working to ensure its base system continues to be accessible. Drupal touts itself as a community that considers accessibility in its open-source standards as well.
Make correct use of headings for content structure
Users with a screen reader may navigate the digital content using headings in your content structure. The screen reader can easily interpret the content when using the headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.) appropriately and strategically. Avoid selecting headings for aesthetics as it could confuse screen reader users. Creating a new CSS (cascading style sheet) class is better for stylizing the text.
Alternative text and descriptions
Provide accurate alt text for the images in digital content to ensure screen reader users comprehend what the image or infographic conveys. When you include links in the web content, create clear and unique descriptions to inform where the link takes the user. If a link goes to the “About Us” page, do not say: “Click here to know more about our organization.” Instead, say: “To know more about our organization, read About Us.”
Choose the right colors
Did you know that about 8% of the population is affected by red-green color deficiency? When you only use these colors, people with this color deficiency may fail to understand the message you want to communicate. While this is one aspect of choosing colors, you should also know that online users with a learning disability can significantly benefit from using colors to organize and distinguish digital content.
A best practice is to use colors and other visual indicators like question marks or asterisks for required content (vs. using the color red alone to indicate a stopping point). It would help if you also segregated content blocks using borders or whitespace to prevent long blocks of text. Moreover, online tools are available to help you assess color contrast to make your digital content as accessible as possible to persons with visual impairment or color blindness.
Keyboard accessible navigation
Users with mobility or physical impairment might find it hard to use a trackpad or mouse. They should be able to utilize a digital platform solely using a keyboard. Users should also be able to use a mouth stick, single-switch input, or alternative input devices.
To improve digital accessibility for these users, you should break long content pages with jump links (anchor links), enabling keyboard-only users to jump to the desired parts of the web page without dealing with other content on the page. You should also provide a “Skip to main content” link on the top of the web page, allowing keyboard-only users to access the main content without tabling through page navigation.
Improve accessibility of the dynamic online content
When digital content gets updated dynamically without a page refresh, a user with a screen reader may not come to know about it. Keyboard-only users could get entrapped in web page overlays, and users with magnification tools could get zoomed in on the wrong page section.
You can make these functions easily accessible with front-end web development frameworks that support accessibility. Make sure videos on the digital platform do not auto-play. If you are presenting a slideshow, each image should be keyboard-navigable. If you use widgets, make sure to test them for accessibility.
Know your audience
For large digital projects, it helps to conduct research and know your audience first. This will dramatically improve your digital planning and analysis from an accessibility perspective.
In addition to direct audience engagement for feedback, you can draw inferences from customer testimonials and reviews online, email requests and comments, exit surveys, and Google analytics to comprehend how your target users may navigate your digital platform.