Why Website Accessibility Matters & How You Can Sell It to Clients
April 25, 2017 | Contributed by: Michael Solms
Website accessibility is merely the measure of how accessible your website and its content is for various types of users, particularly those with vision impairments. In the U.S., roughly 8.1 million people have difficulty seeing or are blind. When it comes to getting your clients to update content to be more accessible, here are some tips on how to approach the topic and navigate through the process with them.
1. Explain the impact
Accessibility represents a huge need and significant trend for user experience optimization in 2017 that is surprisingly overlooked. Unfortunately, you will need more than that statement to get buy in on an accessibility program.
The visually impaired and blind are largely ignored online, which could mean your client’s business is missing out on customers and setting up for potential lawsuits. As of its last update, accessibility is also now part of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines; meaning visibility for their entire market may be negatively impacted as well.
As if Google’s endorsement wasn’t enough, federal agencies and any business that sells to or receives funds from a federal agency must make their websites comply by January 2018.
Even if your client isn’t legally required to comply, you should still strongly encourage them to. They will have a better website, security from any possible future lawsuits regarding this issue, and receive an overall benefit to SEO efforts.
2. Conduct an Accessibility Audit
SEO and accessibility is technical in nature and can be difficult to explain to a client – it’s best to make it as visual as possible. Test your client’s and their competitor’s website using one of the automatic tests below to uncover accessibility issues and create a presentation for them.
You can also review some accessibility functionality yourself. If the following items aren’t properly in place, it’s fair to assume that there are other accessibility issues.
- Semantic structure: Are headers (H1 and H2 tags especially) being used to establish hierarchy and flow of content?
- Alt attributes: Do all images contain alt text that properly provide a description of the image?
- Video content: Do all videos, along with an alt attribute, have proper closed-captioning or content summaries?
- Link locations: Does the anchor text for every link provide a clear description to where it’s taking users?
- Skip Navigation: Can users skip past menu options to navigate to page content?
- Page Titles: Do they describe the content correctly? Are they unique to each page?
- As a final step, contact the appropriate web development resource and ask what, if anything, has been done for site adherence to accessibility standards.
3. Ask the Right Questions
How do you start the conversation about accessibility with your client? Here are a few questions to demonstrate why this is not a one person — or one department – job:
- How many hours per week are available to commit to the accessibility project? Accessibility may require 100 – 200 hours of implementation. Most IT teams already have a full plate of projects and these updates need to be done as soon as possible.
- How do you know if an accessibility issue is a false positive? Accessibility audits will often flag hundreds even thousands of false positive items. Knowing what to fix is just as important as knowing what not to fix.
- What text will you use for missing alt-tags? The IT team knows how to implement alt-tag to images but the key is creating the best text to for the tag.
- How will you handle text-on-color ratio issues? If text is too hard to read, it will get flagged. Will you expand the text or tweak the branded colors? We prefer to leave those decisions up to the marketing folks.
4. Create a Plan and Build Your Team
Likely, your client will try to tackle the accessibility program internally with their IT department – this simply will not be enough. There is a variety of website content that needs to be accessible to everyone, including text, images, videos, PDF documents, and navigation controls. A full team and variety of skill sets are needed to complete this, including a web developer, SEO expert, and marketing and design specialists.
Once the facts have been shared, the issues have been identified and your team assembled, create a plan of attack by priority and type. Below is a list of some common accessibility tactics to guide you team:
- Page Titles: Comprehensive page titles tell users what page they are on. They help users relying on screen readers navigate more easily.
- Headings: By organizing information under headers and subheaders, users understand where they are on the page and where they’re going.
- Alt Text: Screen readers rely on alt text to inform users what the image is about. The image should be labeled with descriptive information — the same way you would briefly describe the photo to a person next to you.
- Video Transcript: Captions and transcripts of videos are helpful for users who can’t hear, or users who can’t play sound while viewing.
- Contrast Ratio: Some users cannot read text without sufficient contrast between the text and the background. Make sure the website has a minimum contrast by default (4.5:1 is the standard ratio) so that the page is readable.
- Resize Text: Many users may need to adjust text to a larger size. Pages need to be designed to accommodate this function.
- Keyboard Access: Many people use a keyboard to navigate, instead of their mouse. Ensure a user can tab to all menu and page elements.
It is important to continue monitoring these elements, schedule time for ongoing consultation, and monitor website functionality to maintain meeting accessibility standards.
Accessibility is a must for your client in 2017 but getting them on board can be a challenge. Invest the time to complete a sample audit, compare them to the competition, and help them understand the impact for people with disabilities and for the site as a whole. Last but not least, show them you have a plan for resources, communication, and implementation.