What Kills Accessibility?
This is a very interesting and powerful question asked by my friend when we were having dinner a few nights ago. We had a good and long talk about it, and I’d like to share the points we raised in our talk.
We focused on the issues that can really prevent a user from accessing information on a web site.
Controls and Functions Accessible Only Via The Mouse
Let’s say that someone who cannot use the mouse tries to access a control in your page. If that control can be activated only through a mouse click, the user will not be able to perform the action provided by the control. The situation becomes worse if that control provides a very important action such as submitting information or proceeding to the next step in a transaction.
To ensure that you don’t kill the accessibility of your site in this aspect, you should see to it that all your controls can be accessed and activated using the keyboard. A good way to do this is to set your mouse aside and use only the keyboard as you try to access and navigate the controls and functions in all your pages.
CAPTCHAs That Have No Alternative
CAPTCHAs are those distorted characters you have to enter to verify that you are a human. Generally, they can be quite bothersome to non-disabled users. But for persons with visual impairments, CAPTCHAs can ultimately prevent them from accessing information in your web site. And it really is the end of the road if the visually impaired user tries to find any alternative options but there is none.
The best way to solve this problem is to have alternatives to your CAPTCHA. There are several options you can use. One is the audio alternative, where the user hears the characters and enters them on the provided field. Another option is a simple math question displayed in text.
Information Conveyed Using Only Colors
“Click on the green button to submit the form.” Sounds easy enough, if you can recognize the green button among the other buttons and controls. But if you are one of the millions of persons who are colorblind, this simple task can become quite impossible to carry out. It can even stop you from completing the process you wish to do.
Don’t kill accessibility by using colors as the sole means of conveying information. Provide descriptive captions in your buttons and controls. Taking the example above, you can put a “Submit” caption on the button, and say “Click the green submit button to submit the form.” This helps colorblind users in quickly determining the button they need to activate.
Everyone loves videos in your web site. Videos can make your visitors stay longer and check out your site more often. However, you need to know that not all your visitors can hear your videos. There are millions of Internet users who have some form of partial or total deafness. And if your videos are not captioned, they would not be able to understand and enjoy the full information you are trying to give.
Still, these loyal visitors wish to access your videos and share them with others. So the best way for you to help these users is to provide captions in your videos. Captions enable users to read the textual equivalent of the information provided in the video’s audio.
Keep Accessibility Alive
These are just examples of issues that can kill your site’s accessibility. But if you take the time to deal with these issues, you are on the road to keeping accessibility alive in your web site.