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07 May 2019

Web Accessibility 101

Article updated for relevance and accuracy

In 1973, Section 8 of the Rehabilitation Act put laws in place to make the internet more accessible for the 55 million Americans at that time who lived with disabilities. If an organization receives funding from the federal government, they must meet certain accessibility standards.

There has historically been some confusion about how the law should be applied to private businesses vs. public owned organizations in regards to web accessibility. Alongside the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) has also played a role in strengthening the law around enforcing web accessibility.

In 2018, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were updated from their 2.0 status to 2.1, accounting for a greater variety of those with accessibility needs online such as those with poor vision or learning disabilities.

Check out the W3C website to stay up to date with what this new version includes. As the law continues to strengthen around website accessibility, it is important to stay ahead of the game by meeting WCAG guidelines.

How to make your website accessible?

There are permanent and temporary disabilities, whether they be mental, physical or cognitive, while disabilities can often come in pairs. Ensuring your website is beneficial for as many people as possible will help you reach as many people as possible.

web accessibility types of disabilities infographic

  • Make sure that all video and audio clips include captions, subtitles or some sort of transcript. Youtube has a helpful tutorial on including subtitles in your videos.
  • Consider providing an audio recording of text.
  • Make sure that pictures, video content, and merchandise have descriptive alt-text which explains what is there so that screen readers can access the information. This also helps with your SEO.
  • Provide an enlarged text option with one of many WordPress plugins.
  • Ensure all hyperlinks are underlined.
  • Add a different font color for hyperlinks but do not only rely on the difference of color. Deep blue is still regarded as the most effective, as most people associate this with a link while underlining words as a hyperlink also makes it clear for users with visual impairment or even those quickly scrolling through your content. Avoid bright font colors or those that don’t stand out against your background.
  • Make it clear that the word or phrase will take them to another page.  Check out this before-and-after demonstration to see the difference it can make!
  • Users should be able to tab through your website and navigate without a mouse.

How to think about web accessibility

The best way to approach web accessibility is to recognize individual inherent bias. Consider conducting a survey with your users about tools that they would find useful and go from there. To get a glimpse at the diverse array of users and their needs on the internet, check out their stories here.

What accessibility challenges has your organization faced? Let us know by tweeting us @AmDeeLLC! Also, be sure to check our presentation on #a11y and how to make your site more accessible.

This article was originally published April 28, 2016

Amar Trivedi

President and founder of AmDee, Amar provides insight of nonprofit technology through occasional guest blogs for AmDee and others. He has been a software developer and architect since the mid-1990s.