Many people with disabilities use assistive technology to interact with their computers – these can include screen readers that read aloud web content for people who cannot see what is on the screen, screen magnifiers for people with certain types of low vision, and voice recognition software and selection switches for people who are unable use a keyboard or mouse.
A poorly designed website can throw up unnecessary roadblocks for people with disabilities who are trying to get information or make a purchase. Issues such as the text being too small or low contrast color combinations can make elements hard to read. Unnamed images and generic text links are almost useless when it comes to using a screen reader.
A great place to start on your journey to making your website more accessible, is to visit the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool or WAVE website. WAVE offers an easy-to-use tool which allows you to enter your site’s address (URL) and it will highlight usability issues or errors. Here are a few of the common accessibility issues WAVE will highlight. These specific issues are relatively fast and easy to fix (depending on the site build, of course) and doing so will make it easier for more users to interact with your site.
1. Add ALT tags to your images and buttons
This one is an oldie but a goodie. An ALT tag (or alternate text tag) allows a computer screen reader program to describe the image to someone who isn’t able to see it. If left empty, the screen reader cannot read and relay the image content. We recommend reviewing your website’s media library and adding descriptive ALT tags to all the relevant images — images in pages, blog posts, diagrams, charts, etc. (you don’t really have to worry about background images or site structure images).
All buttons must have an ALT tag. Otherwise screen reader users will not know the button’s purpose. Even if the button graphic contains only text, it still requires an ALT tag because a screen reader cannot translate images of words into output. Here’s an example of an ALT tag for a button: ‘button to buy product X.’