Is your website accessible? This is a great question and a great end goal. Web accessibility is mandated in some areas of the world, and everyone should take the time to test their own website for accessibility. Disabilities vary, of course, so the set up for color blindness, or low vision capability are different from haptic (hand/touch-based), auditory, or cognitive disabilities.
Disability Action Center NW had their website tested in person using the Washington State University COM 490 class. They tested for motor skills, visual cues, adaptive devices and more. This project aimed to identify areas that needed to be worked on for better usability. Although the site is already compliant to web accessibility standards, the students identified the need to make tabs clearer, remove any duplications and utilize prime real estate on the site more effectively.
To find out if your site is accessible, here are some things to look for:
Go Mouseless for an hour
Go ahead and unplug your mouse (blind users do not use the mouse) and only use your keyboard alone (tab/shift tab, arrow keys, enter and spacebar) to navigate and interact with your website. If you use a touchpad, trackpad or similar input method, disable it, and use the keyboard instead. Things to look for:
- Is there a visible focus indicator (i.e., do you know where you are) at all times as you navigate each screen using the tab and shift tab keys?
- Are you able to interact with every element using the keyboard alone?
- If there is any element that provides functionality if you hover over it with your mouse, such as revealing a tooltip or a set of actions, can you display this strictly using the keyboard alone?
Enlarge Your Fonts
Check that your page(s) is accessible and usable for low vision/visually impaired users. To do this, use your browser and resize the text to 200 percent. Now look at the screen, and make sure there is no loss of content or functionality.
- Have all elements resized, including all widgets?
Check for Sufficient Color Contrast
An often forgotten but important accessibility item is making sure that a page has sufficient color contrast.
Download a color contrast analyzer such as this one from The Paciello Group (which works for Windows and Mac) and find out how your page(s) stack up.
Check Order of Elements
Check your website to make sure everything will be read by screen readers in the correct order.
There are a number of free/open source screen readers available for Windows users. One of the more popular ones is NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA). Take a bit of time beforehand to download the software and learn some of NVDA’s documented basic keystrokes.
Mac users, you have a built-in screen reader called VoiceOver on your systems. Take some time to visit the site referenced to familiarize yourself with how to turn on VoiceOver and some of the basic keystrokes.
Learn About And Use Other OS/Mobile Accessibility Features
The Windows 7 Operating System has a number of built-in accessibility features, as does the Mac Operating System. iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices also have accessibility features. Take an hour to explore what these are and try them out on your website. In the case of the mobile devices, why not try using your website with different accessibility features enabled.
Try Other Adaptive Software Tools
The Adaptech Research Network has a library of free or inexpensive software that is useful to people with disabilities. Why not try one or more of these software?
Let’s make it a more accessible world!