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An Introduction to Website Accessibility

Whether you’re a business owner, website administrator, developer, or end-user, web accessibility needs to be one of your most important priorities this year. Making your website and other digital properties accessible will open your website to new audiences, keep it up-to-date with global regulations, and drastically improve your website performance. This article will discuss the basics of web accessibility, reasons you should make your website accessible, and typical accessibility issues that you or your site visitors may encounter.

What is web accessibility?

Most experts consider website accessibility the practice of building websites that can be used effectively by users with disabilities, such as those with hearing and visual impairments, motor limitations, or cognitive impairments. Much like curb cuts and ramps make physical spaces accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs, accessible websites observe a few best practices that help users who rely on assistive technology to obtain information, make purchases, or build connections online.

These best practices are codified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is the most comprehensive set of success criteria for accessibility. The WCAG also forms the basis of most digital accessibility regulations worldwide, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the European Accessibility Act (EAA), and the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Why do you need to make your website accessible?

Making your website accessible by complying with the WCAG can benefit you in many ways. First, WCAG compliance will help you avoid costly lawsuits and settlements related to the accessibility law that’s relevant to your place of operations. ADA-related lawsuits have increased sharply over the past three years, with an estimated number of more than 4,200 lawsuits filed by private plaintiffs in 2023 alone. Multiple state and national governments have also enacted accessibility laws of their own. If your business wants to make a mark globally, you need to ensure that it complies with globally-recognized accessibility standards.

Second, accessibility opens your website to an audience that would otherwise not notice your brand. In the U.S. alone, over 40 million people report having a disability, and desktop/laptop and smartphone use within this group is significantly lower than individuals without disabilities. The lack of accessible apps and websites is often cited as a reason for this disparity. Making your website accessible can increase your page views and position your brand as one that is more than willing to accommodate users with special needs.

Third, many accessibility best practices also benefit individuals who do not have disabilities. Much like curb cuts benefit everyone from shoppers pushing shopping carts to parents with baby strollers, accessibility best practices such as content captioning benefit users who’d rather watch videos in a quiet environment. Similarly, content headings and image alt text help improve your search engine rankings as they enable search engines to access and index your content.

Common web accessibility issues

While it isn’t very practical to fully comply with the entirety of WCAG, there are a number of accessibility issues that are both easy to identify and resolve. Here are a few common web accessibility issues:

1. Improper alt text

Many developers seem to overlook alt text, but it makes a lot of difference for users with visual impairments. Alt text is a description of an image that is embedded in a web page’s HTML code. If you’re maintaining a page with images of different products, your alt text should be detailed and descriptive enough that a user can identify a product without even seeing it.

2. Low color contrast

A lot of websites are not readable enough because they use low-contrast color combinations like gray on white or gray on black. In addition, individuals with color perception issues like color blindness can have trouble reading red text on a green background and vice-versa. To avoid these issues, you may use a color contrast checker to ensure that your website complies with the WCAG standards of 4.5:1 for standard-sized text and 3:1 for larger text.

3. Missing headings and subheadings

While you might seem that headings and subheadings just mean larger text than usual, the truth is a bit more complicated. Aside from differing in size (and color at times), headings and subheadings actually have specialized HTML tags that tell browsers that they are the start of sections and subsections of text. This allows screen readers and other assistive technologies to identify specific blocks of text that are relevant to the user. They also help improve your search engine performance.

4. Links without descriptions

Have you ever hovered your pointer over a link and wondered where it was going to lead you? Hyperlinks without descriptions can be confusing to the user, who may end up clicking the wrong link or avoiding it altogether, especially if they cannot read the text. You can prevent this by adding a description to a link. For example, a link to your “Contact Us” page should have a description that says “Contact Us”. This allows screen readers to read out the description and give the user the choice to enter the link or skip it.

Web accessibility: The starting point of inclusivity

A growing number of businesses are starting to take website accessibility seriously. Website accessibility is a set of best practices that make the user experience more convenient for users with disabilities, such as visual and hearing impairments or cognitive and motor disabilities. By taking a few simple steps, your accessible website will contribute to online spaces that are friendlier and more inclusive to everyone.

IEMLabs is an ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are also a proud member of EC Council, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The company was established in 2016 with a vision in mind to provide Cyber Security to the digital world and make them Hack Proof. The question is why are we suddenly talking about Cyber Security and all this stuff? With the development of technology, more and more companies are shifting their business to Digital World which is resulting in the increase in Cyber Crimes.


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