Did you know that more than 61 million people (approximately 26% of people) in the United States have some form of impairment? This can include anything permanent, such as a visual or auditory impairments, or temporary and evolving disabilities. No matter their permanence, impairments can affect how people access and interact with vital information online.
Website accessibility is the practice of making your site usable by as many people as possible. We traditionally think of this as being focused around people with impairments, and while that’s a critical piece of website accessibility, it can mean much more. When we design with as many users as possible in mind, we build sites for people on mobile, people with slow network connections, people with cognitive learning disabilities, and more.
For businesses that are new to developing accessibility standards, it’s important to recognize this immediate tie-in with your brand’s goals, commitments, and priorities. We should all aim to build organizations and sites that are accessible to as many people as possible.
The content strategy you develop for your organization’s digital tools, brand standards, and website development should give your users an easy way to gather information, as well as engage with simplified brand messaging for inclusivity.
I’ve compiled some simple tips for how to begin auditing your organization’s content and design work to boost accessibility and inclusivity. I call it the THRIVES framework, because when you implement these starter tips, you can help make sure that your site—and every user that visits—has the opportunity to thrive.
Text Size (THRIVES)
Do: Make sure your text is responsive in sizing on both desktop and mobile.
Why: People with low visibility need a minimum size of 12-point font to view the information easily.
Do: Ensure that your link text describes where users are going (i.e. “View Our Case Studies”).
Why: People who might be listening to your links need to know if they want to go to that destination.
Do: Create high contrast between headings, text, and backgrounds through accessible colors.
Why: Low contrast makes it difficult to view websites and even more so for those with sight impairment.
Tip: You can see how your website looks to users with visual impairments by installing this Chrome extension.
Do: Add alternative (alt) text to your website images.
Why: People with sight impairment listen to your alt text to hear what the image represents. You can learn more about writing alt text by checking out this guide.
Do: Add closed captions to your videos that include audio.
Why: People with hearing impairments use these subtitles to read what is being said or sounded.
Do: Examine your website’s structure and include different ways to navigate the site, such as having dropdown navigation or search options.
Why: People use websites differently. Designing unique paths creates a more intuitive website.
Do: Organize your website canvases and hierarchy of text styles in your design settings.
Why: People will be quick to leave if your website’s structure isn’t intuitive or if it makes their research more difficult.
Website accessibility means much more than broadening your brand or organization’s audience. Designing accessible websites means that you’re making the internet a friendlier, more inclusive place. Everyone deserves to have access to vital information or resources online. When you make your website as inclusive as possible, you’re playing a role in making online spaces more open to people with impairments, people with slow or poor connection, and people who can only access the internet on mobile devices. Where the internet has become known for its polarizing effects, even the smallest step toward improved and positive inclusion helps turn the tide.
The THRIVES framework will help set you up for accessibility success. Now, if you’re ready to go even further on digital accessibility, we’ve got some resources for you to take your website to the next level.