Make Your Site Accessible to People with Disabilities

Hostway Tech Team - March 04, 2010

By Monique Martin

Navigating the Internet can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Imagine facing it with a disability. Users become frustrated and quickly exit sites that aren’t optimized properly. Luckily, making your Web site accessible for those with disabilities isn’t as difficult as you think.

The challenges faced by users with disabilities vary widely from someone who’s color-blind not being able to determine what color a shirt is to a deaf user who needs captioning for online video. People with disabilities use adaptive technology to help them navigate the Web. You can make your Web site more accessible by optimizing your site for these adaptive tools. Here are a few basic tips for creating an accessible Web site.

  • Use alt-tags (alternative attributes) and title tags to label all of your images and videos. Screen readers will interpret these for the visually impaired and learning disabled.
  • Don’t use “click here”. Always have your links make contextual sense.
  • Provide captioning and/or transcripts for all videos.
  • If your graphics contain any important information, make sure you also provide that information in text form.
  • Don’t rely on rollovers to deliver important information.
  • Avoid using cascading menus whenever possible. These are difficult and sometimes impossible for adaptive technology to interpret.
  • Minimize the need for scrolling. For people with repetitive stress injuries or physical disabilities, excessive scrolling can be very difficult.
  • When creating forms, make sure that the text label for the field is very close to the actual field.
  • If you have tables on your Web site, be sure to identify row and column headers.
  • Use a strong color contrast between your text and background.
  • Provide redundant information about color. If you’re selling a brown shirt, don’t rely on the picture. Label the image as brown. About 8 percent of men suffer from red-green colorblindness, so don’t use red alone to denote important information.

The more accessible your Web site is for those with disabilities the more potential customers you have. There are several free online accessibility checkers like WAVE that you can use to see what areas of your site might be problematic. You can learn more about creating an accessible Web site by visiting the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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