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How to find & fix web accessibility issues

With every improvement to the look and feel or functionality of any software product, the problem of web accessibility keeps coming back. While we assume that by now web accessibility is a fundamental item taken care of by any software developer and is a norm, problems galore. As per some of the recent studies in this area that analyzed over one million home pages, the results were at best horrendous. They found that 97.8% of the home pages failed WCAG 2.0. Every one of the 13 HTML elements being used had an accessibility error, and on average, there were at least 50 accessibility errors in any web page.

How does accessibility affect it?

Most of us assume that due to the increasingly multimedia nature of the web, only visually impaired people are affected. People with hearing impairment are also unable to hear audios and videos, and those with reduced motor skills may not be able to control the mouse. Old people cannot read small fonts and people from rural areas do not have the bandwidth to download large files. Also, some users from developing countries have very limited access to resources.

Is a talk on accessibility good for business?

Many business owners opt to service a particular age group or strata but need to rethink their strategy or lose to a more accessible competitor. According to UN report on Disability at a Glance 20191, the purchasing power of people with disabilities is over 1.2 trillion dollars which is the equivalent of the GDP of some European countries and Australia. People also influence others to go to your competitor with better services. Such numbers should be hard to ignore for any sane business owner.

Does it take too long to implement accessibility?

The main reason why organizations shun accessibility features is that these parameters make a website unattractive and are also difficult to implement. But these viewpoints are wrong even if you ignore the business lost. Most accessibility issues are easily fixed and implemented. A handful of items may require complex components and structures. In most cases, accessibility issues are not even related at all to website development but to content generation. Correcting only five of the issues mentioned below will solve almost 85% of all accessibility issues.

The following five key factors will improve accessibility issues easily:

  • well-organized and structured headings,
  • color contrast – background and content,
  • Alt attribute to every image,
  • use of semantic HTML, and
  • complete and meaningful links.

Let us understand this in detail.

Labels and headings

Labels and headings allow the user to identify the field of information and provide additional information. They are simple to implement and allow the user to focus on the linked element. Wrap the text with an HTML tag and use the ‘for’ attribute that points to the ID of the element being used. Occasionally one may encounter tricky situations like no specific label, a label for multiple fields, or rows. But the attribute aria-label may be used in such cases.

Increase color contrasts

A poor contrast of the text against the background is the most common mistake. Research shows that on average, any homepage has around 36 issues with insufficient contrast. Refer to the WCAG specifications before looking at the color palette and compare the HEX values of the RGB colors.

Add Alt text to images

It is the easiest to implement for any website. An alternative text added to any of the images used is the basic principle of web accessibility, yet it is the most common problem in almost every website. Any developer though needs to give a little bit of thought to the alt attribute. One needs to wonder about the text that surrounds it, the role of the image, or even repeating information.

Provide meaning to the links

Most websites and blogs have summaries of their links and posts with a small text at the end saying “Read more…”. This link only provides the user with the action they need to perform, while not providing any real meaning to the link. Is the “Read more…” link going to open up about the Amazon rainforest, complex web programming, or just images of the text above. This link needs to be more defined.

Conclusion

Ignoring accessibility issues should only be done by any business at the peril of losing their business to a competitor. The disability market is huge and cannot be ignored. It also is one of the few largely untapped markets by most businesses. Fixing accessibility is not a difficult process and keeping in mind a few things as mentioned above can make your business grow exponentially.

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