When it comes to website accessibility, inclusivity is key (especially in light of new ADA lawsuits). It doesn’t matter how clean your code, how beautiful your design, or how engaging your content, if your website is inoperable to people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities. But making your website accessible does not mean you have to choose function over form.  The best websites can be enjoyed by all without compromising innovative, compelling web design. 

Getting started with website accessibility

The first things to consider when you assess a website’s accessibility can be found using an automated scan. An automated scan is a very useful and powerful tool for identifying straightforward accessibility violations on a website. It is a quick process that provides immediate feedback and can be run over a high volume of pages. Of course, automated scans will not pick up some of the more elusive usability problems experienced by people with disabilities, so it is important that they are simply used as a starting point.

Great accessibility needs a human touch

Just because a tool has not picked up a specific accessibility problem does not mean that it is not there. It is critical that a manual inspection follows an automatic scan in order to verify that the site is truly usable for disabled users.

There are 3 common barriers to accessible usability that an automated scan will not pick up.

  1. Clickable elements that cannot receive keyboard focus prevent users from being able to navigate the page. This will make a page unusable for someone that uses the keyboard.
  2. Javascript is a very complicated programming language and automated tools cannot properly evaluate it. Instead, a manual inspection may be needed to determine if the Javascript is perceivable and operable to a disabled user.
  3. A website accessibility scan cannot detect whether a site is missing HTML5 header tags as well as ARIA landmarks. These are very useful to disabled users because they allow them to bypass repeated content blocks letting people with disabilities to explore the page more efficiently.

Don’t be afraid to go back to basics

A useful tool when evaluating your website accessibility can be as simple as a solid list. Implementing a checklist during the development phase ensures common accessibility issues are cut out of the equation altogether. An accessibility checklist can also provide accessibility training to content authors, and set an infrastructure to help you double-check your work with automated scans and usability tests.

Overall, great accessibility means superior usability for all. Just like you wouldn’t forget one of your primary personas when you design a site, you shouldn’t forget that many of those users have disabilities that may inhibit them on most websites. It’s important we’re designing websites for all users, and prioritize inclusivity on the web.