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Feature image Web Accessibility Can Be Easy (No, Really!)

Do you take the internet for granted? It used to be a new, novel, even magical thing. Logging on to the internet and reaching out to people across the world seemed like the future come to life in the 90s and 2000s. But now, in 2017, the internet has become old news for a lot of people. It’s no longer an exciting new resource, and instead it’s just a part of everyday life for millions of people.

The Internet Isn’t Easy for Everyone to Use

If you’re just a bit too used to relying on the internet, it might be surprising to you that the internet isn’t such a convenient resource for everyone. For some people, the internet is still a tough and challenging part of life. Why? Because it’s a resource that comes with a lot of barriers. Web design is slowly catching on that every person is different, and as a result, the internet needs to incorporate universal design and accessibility options. Otherwise, millions of people across the globe will be locked out of this incredible resource. Still, accessibility options are far from widely used, and many website owners just don’t know where to begin to make their site’s accessible.

How Many People are Impacted?

Need some solid evidence that people need these accessibility features? Here are some stats that might convince you that the internet is inaccessible to more people than you think:

  • 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.”[1]
  • 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss.”[2]
  • “In most countries, at least one person out of 10 is disabled by physical, mental or sensory impairment, and at least 25 per cent of any population is adversely affected by the presence of disability.”[3]

If you want to learn more about disability across the globe, then check out the World Health Organization’s World Report On Disability from 2011.

Luckily, it’s MUCH easier than you think to include helpful accessibility features on your website. There are ways to help give your visitors the assistance they need without breaking the bank hiring a web designer to overhaul your site. Here are a few recommendations to give your users the help they need.

Install UserWay

Yep, I’m going there (again). Honestly, it’s just one of the simplest things you can do. Why?

  • It’s totally free to install and use.
  • It’s packed full of features your users need (text enlargement, color contrast changes, keyboard navigation help, and more).
  • It doesn’t require you to change your site’s code to install, so everyone can do it.
  • It’s not intrusive on your site. You get to pick the button color and location, and it’s pretty small so it won’t bother users who don’t need it.
  • It appears on both desktop and mobile browsers, so no matter how someone accesses your site they’ll get the accessibility help they need.

UserWay’s widget gives you everything you need to make your site more accessible without costing you a dime. If your site is inaccessible or violates WCAG 2.0, then you could be opening yourself up to lawsuits. No one wants that, so it’s best to take the necessary steps to make your site accessible. A great first step is installing UserWay on your site!

Check Your Color Contrast

While the UserWay widget gives your users the ability to modify the color contrast on your site, there is still more you can do. If your website’s colors are too similar (for example, the background color matches the font too closely), the text is too light, or the text is a color that is difficult to read, you could be making your site inaccessible for all of your users.

UserWay’s contrast checker is really easy to use. Just go to the page and type in the color codes for your site’s foreground and background colors. You will see the two sample text boxes on the bottom of the page change to match your color selection. The boxes represent what the site would look like using a normal-sized font (14px) or large font (20px). It will also tell you if your site’s colors pass or fail the WCAG 2.0 standards (both the basic AA requirements and the AAA requirements.

Even if your site’s contrast passes the AA standard, it’s really a good idea to make sure it passes AAA as well. Meeting the minimum is nice, but it’ll see leave some users struggling to view your content. Always go for maximum compliance (especially where WCAG 2.0 is concerned)!

Talk to Your Users

Have an elderly relative? A friend with low vision? Ask them to use your site. You will be surprised at the problems that users come up against. It’s pretty tough to imagine what it’s like to have arthritis, limited vision, or any other disability. That’s why user testing is so critical.

User testing can change your perception entirely. You know your website, you know your content, and so you’re really not the best judge of what parts of your site are inaccessible. It’s ok! That’s why creating a panel of users (even if it’s just family and friends) that can give you objective feedback can be extremely helpful. See how they use your site and how you can help them to make it easier. The responses you get can open up your website to a whole new segment of users.

Get Excited

Accessibility compliance is a pretty boring term for what’s going on when you make changes to your website. Instead, think of it as taking part in the newest wave of internet improvements. Or leading the charge to universal access. If you’re outraged when you see a building without a wheelchair ramp, then get outraged when you see a website that’s impossible for people with disabilities to use. The more people who start taking notice and taking action, the sooner everyone will be able to approach the internet as a useful tool and not as a complicated hurdle.

What do you do to make your website accessible to users? Have you ever been surprised by comments your users have made on things they find inaccessible? Share your experiences below, and let’s start making the internet accessible for all!