Five Signs Your Site May Not Be Accessible

Websites That Work With Assistive Technology

Accessible websites are becoming increasingly important.  A recent ruling in a South Florida District Court held that if a store is online, accessibility laws apply just as they would a brick and mortar location. In other words, the same accessibility guidelines that apply to a brick-and-mortar location also apply to that business’ website.

Many do-it-yourself web hosting services are addressing this issue, but if your site is dated, you may need to update some elements to ensure your site meets accessibility guidelines.  Here are five signs your site may not be accessible.

  1. There is no “ring” or “focus ring” around the selected element; Meaning, when an element on the page is selected, there is no visual or auditory cue to alert the user. Web Accessibility Guidelines specifically state that the element selected must indicate to the user that the currently selected element has focus.  Worried about style?  No problem – use a box shadow, or underline text if it’s a menu item.  Those options can fit with any style, and will keep your site compliant and still looking classy.
  2. Radio buttons and dropdown menus for choosing specific attributes of an item, (like toppings on a pizza, or the size of t-shirt) may not always work with the user’s browser screenreader or other screenreader technology.  If you are not sure whether your radio buttons or menu choices are accessible, it might be a good idea to reach out to a webmaster who is versed in accessibility semantics.  Paying for an audit of your site, and potentially some minor surgery, will be worth it to bring your site up to date and in compliance with accessibility guidelines.
  3. If you cannot tab through your site, OR you hit tab and you no longer know where the focus is, your site is inaccessible to a user with keyboard-only capability.  Can you tab through your menu?  If not, that’s a definite sign your site is not accessible.  A user’s ability to use keyboard shortcuts is vital for a site to be accessible.  Users with a disability that prevents using a mouse, or those who must use blow tubes to navigate a site need elements that can be selected via keyboard input and not just click input.
  4. Low contrast, justified text, and crowded elements can make sites difficult to read and navigate for individuals with vision or motor disabilities.  If elements are too close together, someone who has difficulty using a mouse may struggle with navigation.  Red and green as well as blue and yellow are indistinguishable to individuals with color blindness.  If you’re in doubt, seek guidance from a local disability advocacy group, and, more often than not, they will thank you for reaching out and making sure that your site is accessible to all.
  5. Minimal design helps those with cognitive difficulties like ADD, Dyslexia and Autism.  Minimizing the number of elements can help reduce their need to “zoom” and manually reduce the amount of information on a page.  If you think it’s busy, it’s too busy.

Hopefully these tips can help you determine if your site needs some improvement to make it accessible to all.  More importantly than following the law, a site that is built to accessibility guidelines is a solid website, free of major problems, and actually creates a better experience for all users, not just those with disabilities.

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