This talk was presented at WordPress Accessibility Day 2022, I wanted to include links to more details, as well as include the transcript (so that you don’t have to watch a video) so that anyone can use it to make a website more accessible.
Why accessibility is so important? It is said that 1 in 4 people (and recent stats say it’s about 15% of the world) identify as having a disability. That disability could be something you see, or invisible. You may not even know that someone has a disability unless they tell you. Accessibility is so important because it shows that you care and you want everyone to be able to access what you offer. If you don’t include accessibility you could not include 25% (or more) of your potential audience.
If you use WordPress then you want to have a theme that is accessible. You can go to wordpress.org/themes, then at this time there is feature filter which you want to click to show, then under a group called features, you want to click on Accessibility Ready, then you can apply that filter. At this time there are about 100 different ones to choose from. That may not seem like very many, especially since there are so many themes available.
You may be thinking, what makes a theme be accessibility ready? According to the WordPress Theme Review Handbook, it must at least: make sure someone only using a keyboard can use it, making sure anyone who has a screen reader can identity what is a button, a link, or somewhere for an input, and making sure to include a skip link which can skip the menu of the site.
Now that you have a theme, who maybe should think about the headings and paragraph. H1 (or called heading 1) should only be used once on each page and it should be used to describe what the page is about. This allows the site to be organized, and make it easier for everyone to understand what is important and what regular wording on the site.
Something we should all consider is what language is on our website. I don’t mean like English, or French, but the wording is something that those who read the site can understand it. You should be thinking about how technical or non-technical you want to be. For example, since this meant for beginners I’m trying to use simple language so everyone can get the most use out of it. If the website is meant for everyone then consider using plain language.
What is often on every website is images. They can be great to break up all the text, but can be horrible for accessibility. What you should add to every image is something called alt text, which is used to describe the image to someone who can’t see it. It can be hard to write alt text at first, however, close your eyes and try to remember the image what is important and what is in it and write the alt text around that.
Every website also has colour. It could be just black and white, or you can add any colours you may want. However, you want everything on your site to be able to be read by anyone. To ensure anyone can read it, you want to have enough contrast between them. The very minimum is a ratio of 3 to 1 for large text, and 4.5 to 1 for paragraph text, but the higher the number the better. Now, what is colour contrast? The simplest definition I have found is “a measure of the difference in perceived brightness between two colours”. How do you check what the contrast between your two colours are? WebAIM’s Contrast Checker is a great site for doing that, and there are many other tools and websites that let you do that.
There seem to be a million different fonts to choose from, however when you think about accessibility you want to be careful with which font you choose. You want a font that is easy to see and read for everyone. You are probably hoping that I can list off a number of fonts that are the best for you. However, as with many things, there isn’t one, or two, or five that is “the best”. While many sites offer suggestions, I would encourage you to find a font or two that fits your website and is accessible. You also want to limit the number of different fonts that you use, try to limit it to three fonts or less for you to use.
With it being easy to read, you want to make sure there is enough spacing between the letters and the paragraphs. That way, the reader knows if the word is cod or cool. You also want to make sure the size of the font is big enough to read, the general suggestion is making the size at least 16px to start. You may be reading text at 100% zoom, there are many people who read at up to 200% so make sure that text can be read without losing any content or functionality.
Many websites love to include audio or videos, and while they can look good, they can be an accessibility nightmare. Make sure nothing plays unless the person viewing the website wants it to play. If you are including audio or video then make sure someone with disabilities can still enjoy it, include closed captions, or audio describe what is happening.
Have you wondered why so many links look the same across many websites? It’s because it helps those who have a disability to know what is a link and what isn’t. The most common way is to have the link be blue in colour, and have it underlined. This way it stands out and you know what is a link and what isn’t. If the site has blue text colour, then you will want to choose a different colour for the links.
Another way to make links accessible is by making them descriptive. It helps to differentiate between the different links. That means not including the words “click here” or “learn more”, instead including “you can rent a tool” or “learn more about our favourite pasta”.
Accessibility is also be making sure someone can visit your website in the first place. That means making your website load as quickly as possible. 3 seconds or less seems to be the standard now. If you are unsure how long your website takes to load then you can use such sites as webpagetest.org which will tell you. The length of time it take will also depend on where in the world the website is, and where the visitor is.
Accessibility is also making sure the site looks good on a computer as well as a phone. Have you tested how the site looks on a phone, because you could be losing an additional 30% of your potential customers if it doesn’t look good.
I know this is a ton of information, and what may work for one person, may not for someone else. This isn’t meant to be the perfect guide to making your website 100% accessible. It is a guide to help you make your website more accessible. If you do want to see how your website meets some accessibility standards then I would suggest using a website accessibility evaluator like the WebAIM one over at wave.webaim.org.
There is tons that can be done to make a website accessible and I’ve only just covered the surface level stuff, such as theme, headings, language, images, colour, fonts, audio & video and links. Now, get out there and make your website more accessible.
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