Founder and CEO of Equally AI, a world-class, secured, convenient and modern web accessibility compliance solution for everyone.
When creating websites, many businesses often prioritize visual aesthetics and interactivity over accessibility or consider it a compliance issue. But as an industry expert, I firmly believe that focusing on usability leads to regulatory compliance as a natural outcome rather than the goal.
In this article, I share a web accessibility checklist that covers essential elements for building a website that is both user-friendly and compliant. The checklist is divided into distinct sections to help website owners create accessible experiences without compromising design or functionality.
Your entire website must be accessible via keyboard only. This is essential for users with visual or mobility impairments who rely solely on keyboards to navigate websites. To test this, disable your mouse and check if you can use the tab, spacebar, enter and arrow keys to navigate and interact with elements. You should also check for the following.
Keyboard traps pose a major problem for keyboard users. They occur when users are stuck within certain interactive elements, such as modal boxes or drop-down menus. To avoid this, enable keyboard-based exits which allow users to use the tab key or other keyboard functions to shift the focus out of these content subsets.
The order in which interactive items receive focus on a page should follow the visual flow of the content, moving left to right and top to bottom. This intuitive approach enables users to anticipate where the focus will move next, providing a logical and seamless navigation experience.
Semantic structure refers to the use of HTML elements such as headings, lists and paragraphs to organize information on a web page in a logical order. This helps everyone who visits your website find the information they need quickly and easily. To ensure your website has a proper semantic structure, it should contain the following elements.
Headings provide a clear structure for content and improve website navigation, especially for screen reader users. Rather than simply making the text of your headings bigger or bolder, use proper HTML tags in a logical and consistent order (H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.) to improve readability.
A landmark is a recognizable area of a webpage, like a town hall or statue in the physical world. Screen reader users rely on landmarks such as the headers, main content and navigation areas to quickly find regions of interest. Screen readers and shortcut keys work better when these elements are correctly marked up, helping improve the user experience.
Links And Buttons Description
Screen readers rely on text to understand the purpose of a website’s elements. Therefore, links and buttons should have descriptive text so people know what to expect when they click or activate them. Link text should describe its destination such as “Read the full article” instead of “Click here,” and buttons should have action-oriented labels such as “Add to cart” instead of “Select.”
Skip links allow users to bypass repetitive content, such as a navigation menu and jump directly to the page’s main content. This can be useful for keyboard-only users since they won’t need to tab through the entire menu and submenus to access specific sections.
Forms And User Input
Forms and user input actions are essential components of many websites, but they can also be challenging for users with disabilities. These are the key principles to keep in mind to make forms and user input actions user-friendly.
When creating forms, use clear and concise labels that describe each form field’s purpose or the action the user should take. Don’t use vague labels like “Information” as this confuses users. Instead, use specific labels such as “First Name” or “Current Address” to help users provide the correct information required.
Include simple instructions to help users understand the information needs and how to provide it. For example, if a password requires numbers or special characters, provide text clearly stating this rule. Also, use clear error messages to let users know when they make mistakes and how to fix them.
Ensure users can use the keyboard to select radio buttons, combo boxes and checkboxes. Dropdown menus must also be labeled correctly and match the correct form field. ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes are especially helpful in making forms accessible for assistive technology users.
For example, the <aria-label> attribute provides a descriptive label to help screen reader users understand the purpose of the form control. The <aria-required> attribute indicates which fields are required, while <aria-describedby> helps provide additional information like the minimum requirements for a password.
Color, Images And Multimedia
Colors, images and multimedia are great for creating engaging experiences, but not everyone can perceive or interact with them in the same way. Here’s how to ensure proper use of color and usability of images and multimedia on websites.
• Provide text descriptions (alternative text) that describe the content and purpose of an image concisely and accurately.
• Use high-contrast color combinations for text and background colors, with a color ratio of at least 4.5:1 for small text and 3:1 for large text.
• Don’t rely on color to convey important information such as required fields or errors. Use other visual cues like underlines, bold text or icons.
• Provide alternative color schemes or a high-contrast mode for users with visual impairments.
• Provide captions and transcripts for videos and audio files to ensure that the content is accessible to users with hearing impairments.
• Avoid blinking or flashing content that could trigger seizures.
• All multimedia controls should be accessible via keyboard and there must be options for users to adjust the volume or speed of the video or audio content.
Website accessibility should be a top priority for businesses, not just as a compliance issue but also as a means to enhance the user experience for all visitors. By implementing this checklist, businesses can better ensure that their website is compliant and user-friendly.
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