Digital accessibility is on everyone’s radar these days. Accessibility testing was a major component of the relaunch of Perkins.org in December, and our work continues to make our site as accessible as possible. Likewise, the federal government is revising some of its standards to make online access easier for people who are blind or otherwise disabled. Comcast recently came out with a new voice-controlled channel guide. And Harvard and MIT made news headlines for failing to caption their video courses.
Considering that nearly 20 percent of the population has some sort of disability (according to the latest government census), it makes sense that businesses and other organizations should do all they can to make sure everyone has access to their digital content.
Of course, one stumbling block to this is money, since many organizations don’t budget for accessibility. Here are three simple and inexpensive steps you can take to make your digital content accessible to a wider population.
Is your site keyboard accessible? Not all users navigate digital content using a mouse. Some visitors use only a keyboard. Test the navigation and operation of your site using just a keyboard by using the tab keys, the arrow keys, the enter key and the space bar key. You should be able to fully navigate the site and access all of the content, particularly the controls such as drop-down menus, form fields and radio buttons.
Does your site use only color to convey information? Not all users have perfect color vision and some users are color blind. Look at your site’s images, particularly charts and graphs. If color is the only distinction between the elements on the chart, a shading pattern needs to be added. Error messages regarding incorrectly completed form fields often only use color to inform. Sometimes the error message will ask the user to correct or complete the items “shown in red,” which may not work for everyone. A good solution is to add a symbol to the error message such as an asterisk or exclamation point, resulting in a message of “shown in red or with an asterisk.”
Are there any uncaptioned videos embedded in your site? Not all users have perfect hearing, and some users may have no hearing. Information in a video that is conveyed through speech or sound should also appear in the video as text. Simply look around your site for videos, play them and press the closed captioning (cc) button. Does text appear? Does it match what you hear?
If in checking the three items above you find potential accessibility issues, let your Web developers know. Be sure to stress the importance of correcting these issues in a timely and effective manner. While there are potential legal and business implications, accessibility is simply the right thing to do, because every individual should be assured equal access to digital content. Often times, changes made to benefit individuals with disabilities end up benefiting everyone. For example, consider how useful captions are in sports bars and lounges.
Checking these three items alone won’t ensure full accessibility or compliance with applicable laws. But they are easy, no-cost evaluations that anyone can do to start on a pathway to accessibility.