We recently spoke with a law firm that’s in the process of vetting various website developers. When we mentioned that all of the sites we develop are accessible and developed in accordance with WCAG 2.1 guidelines to ensure that they are ADA-compliant, she hesitated. She responded that she wasn’t sure that they wanted an ADA-compliant website.
When we asked her why, she explained that another legal marketing agency had told her that they didn’t make their sites fully compliant because “the only way to achieve that would be with a black and white site with no images”. This statement is completely false, of course, and our portfolio demonstrates that. This kind of misinformation is stalling progress when it comes to digital inclusion for individuals with disabilities.
You Don’t Have To Compromise on Accessibility
Let’s set the record straight. An accessible site can be colorful, full of compelling graphics, and aesthetically pleasing. You don’t have to compromise. To achieve this, the best approach is to have an experienced designer build the site from the ground up with accessibility in mind.
The casual website visitor may not distinguish most of the elements that contribute to accessibility. The truth is that most of the work done to make a site accessible is done on the back end. Here’s an incomplete list:
- Alt text for images – invisible, used only by screen readers and other assistive tech
- Labels for form element – the label tag is invisible
- Headings – the tags are invisible, and they make the text easier for all of us to see
- Table Headers – the code is invisible, and there is flexibility to change the appearance
- Lists – they group items by bullets or numbers, which can then be styled
- Language – invisible
- Keyboard Accessibility – invisible, just requires back-end structuring
- Reading Order – invisible
- Captions – closed captions only appear in videos if the client turns them on
- Audio Descriptions – closed audio descriptions aren’t heard unless they’re turned on
- ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Application) – these allow for more accessible widgets but don’t change the visual appearance
Examples of Accessibility Elements in Design
For those with limited vision or color blindness, poor color contrast on a website is a major concern. They cannot read text if there isn’t enough contrast between the text and the background. For instance, light gray text on a light-colored background wouldn’t be legible for them.
Another example would be that those who are color-blind struggle when color alone is used to convey information. Conveying information through color cues only is a problem for those who cannot distinguish certain colors from others. Screen readers also do not communicate the color of text, so a blind person would miss out on that information too. This could play out as red text alone used to show the required fields on a form.
For more examples of accessibility elements that can influence design, check out the DOJ’s recent guidance.
Accessibility Helps All of Us
Incorporating the WCAG 2.1 guidelines into website design leads to user-friendly websites for all users, not just those with disabilities. An experienced design can make websites fully accessible as part of an aesthetically-pleasing design. Function over form will help your firm effectively communicate with all site visitors, truly maximizing the reach of your firm.