Here at Media Access Australia we do a lot of work around auditing websites for conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. That may not sound exciting, but it’s important work for establishing exactly what areas of a website are responsible for stopping people with disabilities from accessing it.
In carrying out audits we’re often surprised at how basic some of the accessibility mistakes are—and that’s a good thing. That’s because for many websites improving accessible won’t be expensive, complex or time consuming.
In light of this, we’ve put together the three most common mistakes we find, which also have the bonus of being relatively easy to fix.
For a website to be accessible it’s important that any links included on webpages—in text content or as navigation headings—be meaningful. Specifically, that a website user can tell what is being linked to solely from the link text itself.
That means that the very popular use of terms such as ‘click here’ or ‘read more’, which occur over and over again on any number of sites, are in accessible.
This is because website users who rely on assistive technology (AT) such as screen readers—software that converts text to speech—will only hear “link: click here” or “link: read more” when they navigate to these links.
If we use the example of a link to an annual report, it’s pretty clear that using ‘our 2014-2015 annual report’ as your link text—resulting in users hearing “link: our 2014-2015 annual report”—is a lot more meaningful that ‘click here’.
Sufficient colour contrast
Not having enough colour contrast so that users with vision impairments can access a given website’s content is also a common accessibility mistake.
Often, this is simply the result of not knowing about how much colour contrast is required.
Other times this can be the result of a belief that websites that are visually accessible look bad, so that the choice you have is between a bad-looking accessible website and a good-looking inaccessible website.
That’s not always the case, and you can still have a great looking website. You just need to have enough contrast between text and its background.
At the minimum, the visual presentation of text and images of text has a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For large-scale text and images of large-scale text, you need to have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1.
Text or images of text that are part of an inactive user interface component, that are pure decoration, that are not visible to anyone, or that are part of a picture that contains significant other visual content, have no minimum contrast requirement. Though, for a logo that might have text content, it doesn’t hurt to provide an alternative text description of that text.
There are tools available to check your contrast ratios, such as the Colour Contrast Analyser.
Our third common accessibility mistake is a little bit more complicated than meaningful links and higher contrast colours, but is still relatively easy to address, and is: making sure that people with disabilities can complete any processes your website has.
That means taking some screen reading software, such as the free NVDA application, turning off your screen, and using only your keyboard, see if you can complete a series of different tasks using only the information spoken by the screen reading software.
Perform a process like signing up for an email newsletter, using your ‘Contact Us’ form, making a purchase, registering for the website and doing a search.
If you can’t do all of these things, then you have broken processes and you need to fix them.
Common mistakes here are keyboard traps—where users can navigate to a part of a process or part of the website but can’t navigate out of it—and not providing clear enough labels or prompts for what kind of data is needed in a given box in a form.
Also make sure to test your processes on mobile devices too. You can use VoiceOver on an iOS device or Talkback on Android devices.
Media Access Australia website auditing
A web accessibility audit is the first step on the journey to web accessibility compliance. The technical evaluation provides a snap-shot of an organisation’s degree of compliance or non-compliance with the global standard in web accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. It provides:
- The WCAG checkpoint to which the issue relates
- Screenshots of problems encountered
- Comments from our testers
- Comments from our technical auditors
- Our recommendations on how to remediate the issue
With a full understanding of your whether your organisation’s websites or mobile device apps are inaccessible you can confidently and effectively move to a state of accessibility compliance. It is that simple. If you wish to create an organisational culture or behaviour which includes accessibility at the centre of everything it does, and puts in place checks and processes to ensure accessibility is embedded in the organisation, an audit is the place to start.
If you want guidance on web audits or would like to commission an audit call +61 2 8218 9320 or complete the enquiry form on our Contact page for more information and pricing.