07/04/2017 written by Mike Taylor
Accessibility is often thought to be a costly process, and while some features can be complex, we have some top tips to get the process moving with minimum cost to you.
Consider accessibility as early as possible during a build or an update
It’s important to include accessibility as early as possible when building an app, website, or any online content or update. The earlier the build is evaluated and any problem areas identified, the earlier a fix can be implemented and in many cases an easier resolution be found, which works for everyone. It’s something we say a lot, but it’s very true; it’s much easier to include accessibility at the start, rather than retro-fit later. That said, it’s never too late to include accessibility, and it’s certainly better to do it than not at all.
Include a clear tab order and focus highlighting when tabbing through the page
For users who can only use a keyboard a clear and logical tab order is required for consistent and predictable navigation, and focus highlighting should be equally consistent while tabbing through the page. Implementing both solutions will enable users to navigate through the page easily, while giving focus to each element (like a link for example). The lack of this functionality means that users can be confused if focus disappears completely, or skips passed items such as a form or past a frame.
Include a clear and logical headings structure
Including a clear and logical headings structure, will make it easier for all users to navigate and understand the page content. The main content heading should be coded as a level 1 mark-up, and sub-sections would need a level 2, with smaller sections as a level 3 respectively. Not including headings will make it difficult for blind computer users who rely on screen reading software to navigate the content section-by-section. Headings enable users to move around the page easier, particularly if using screen reading software.
Avoid the use of fast blinking images, and items which move around the screen
If an item blinks at a high speed, and lasts for more than 5 seconds, it is important to provide a method of stopping the item easily. Such content can be distracting for users who have learning difficulties or worse for those with photo sensitive epilepsy. Avoiding the use of this content will not only make navigating easier, but potentially also reducing the possibility of illness as a result.
Include clear form labelling and clear error handling
When users are required to select an option, or type information in to a form, clear labelling for all items will make completing this both usable and very accessible. Including a clear error handling for forms which are not completed correctly, as well as providing a prompt for all compulsory form items, will make accessing the content easier for all user groups.
Include a clear alternative text for graphics which convey specific information
Include clear alternative text for graphics which convey specific information such as special offers, or other information which direct users to specific content. If graphics are used purely for decoration, hiding the items from screen reader users with a null alt attribute will cause less confusion for blind users and maintain the visual effect for other users moving forward.
Include clear link text and a skip link
Including a clear link text to indicate what will happen when a link is selected, such as ‘click here to read our top accessibility tips’ rather than ‘click here’, makes all the difference when navigating content. A skip link is used by those who only use keyboard to move to the main content section of the page, which is helpful in many aspects of navigation. For users of desktop or laptop devices a skip link reduces the amount of tabbing which is required to move to the main content of the page; while on mobile, less scrolling is required for users, particularly user groups who have limited mobility or those using the screen reading software.