12 Simple Tips to Improve Web Page Accessibility

12 Simple Tips to Improve Web Page Accessibility

There are several simple things you can do that will not only make your Web pages more accessible for people with disabilities, but will often improve the overall look and performance of your pages.

  1. Make your site navigation clear and simple. Organize your content into clearly labeled sections of your site.  The sections and pages should have descriptive, easy-to understand titles (“Class Schedule” is more descriptive than “Schedule”).  Try to minimize the need for students to “drill down” through more than two sections to find their information.
     
  2. Design with strong contrast between your text and your page background.  People with vision impairments can have difficulty viewing text that is placed on a color background. Color text on a color background may stand out for someone with normal vision, but someone who is color blind may only see similar shades of gray. Page backgrounds with strong or vibrant patterns can also inhibit readability. You will get the best contrast with black text on a white background. 
     
  3. Use a consistent, organized structure to your pages.  Present your page content with well-defined headings, subheadings and lists.  If your content-editing system provides pre-defined styles for text elements, it’s usually best to use the existing styles rather than changing or resizing the text for various sections of your page.
     
  4. Use a readable typeface and minimize “mixing and matching.” If your editing system does not provide pre-defined styles, use a simple, readable typeface for your text.  For Web pages, “san serif” faces such as Verdana, Arial and Helvetica are considered to be very readable on computer screens.  If you prefer a “serif” typeface (the letters have little feet), Times Roman or something similar is a good choice. But keep in mind that if you are using a small text size (8 point or below), serif typefaces are more difficult to read than san-serif typefaces.
     
    Your page will look less cluttered and be easier to read if you stay with the same typeface on the entire page.  To highlight different text on the page, such as for subheads or to accent certain sections, use a larger text size and/or boldface version of the same typestyle. Most visitors assume that underlined text is a hyperlink, so avoid using underlines in your text unless the text is a hyperlink.
     
  5. Use size, boldface and color for accent only.  Boldface type will stand out on a page, but it is typically not as readable as the “base” typestyle.  So it’s best to use bold to highlight headings, words and sentences, but not for entire pages or paragraphs of text. 
     
    If you use color text for a highlight, stay with darker colors for readability.  For example, yellow text may be difficult for someone with a vision impairment to read. If you want to highlight text in red, a dark red or maroon color will be more readable than a bright red. 
     
  6. Ensure that your text links provide context.  If you place a link on your page to your test schedule, don’t simply link the words “click here.”  Link the entire line:  “Click here to view the test schedule.”
     
  7. Use alt tags for images. When you upload an image for your page, you will typically be able to enter “image properties.”  Image properties include selections for image placement on the screen, image size, etc. You will also see a space to enter an “alt tag,” which can include a brief description of the photo.  When someone hovers over the photo the text will appear.  So if you post a photo of a Monarch butterfly, add the alt tag “photo of Monarch butterfly.” Most automated screen readers (for the vision impaired) will read your alt tag.
     
  8. Use descriptions for graphs and charts.  Along with the alt tag mentioned above, you may also have a “long description” attribute for your images.  Describe your graphs and charts in the long description, or add descriptive text on your page under the image.
     
  9. Create your tables for horizontal, not vertical reading. Screen readers will read across the top line of your table, and then move to the next line of your table. If you place a table on your page, be sure that the information is understandable when read across the row. For example:
     
    Incorrect Table 
     

    Monday 

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    Thursday

    Friday

    8 am to 4 pm

    closed

    8 am to 9 pm

    8 am to 9 pm

    8 am to noon

    Lunch from noon to 1 pm

     

    Lunch from noon to 1 pm

    Lunch from noon to 1 pm

     

    Correct Table 
     
    Monday  8 am to 4 pm Lunch from noon to 1 pm
    Tuesday

    closed 

     
    Wednesday 8 am to 9 pm Lunch from noon to 1 pm
    Thursday 8 am to 9 pm Lunch from noon to 1 pm
    Friday 8 am to noon  

  10. Avoid movement and animations on the page unless they are needed to convey information (not used simply as design elements).  Movement can create distractions on your page, which can make it difficult for some readers to focus on the content.
     
  11. For multimedia files, provide captioning and/or transcripts of video, and transcripts of audio.
     
  12. Keep it simple.  Your content editing system likely provides many options for typestyle, design, graphics and more.  You should take advantage of the functionality to make your pages more attractive and your content more readable.  Just keep in mind that the primary purpose of your site is to provide content to the reader.  Any design elements should enhance your content, not distract from it.

For more information about Web accessibility standards and guidelines, visit www.w3.org/wai. The site is managed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which is an international community where member organizations and the public work together to develop Web standards.

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