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Top 5 Website Accessibility Tips

Mark Tomkins

The 5 most common website accessibility problems and how to avoid them

In this last post in the series of ‘How to make your website more accessible’ we highlight the 5 most common website accessibility problems and provide tips to avoid them. Remembering that most websites and how the content has been added has historically not been accessible and styled to suit those with sight and no disabilities. These can be overcome with an understanding of how to format the page content in a way that makes it a better experience for those people with disabilities.

  1. Images with text embedded create exclusion problems as it relies on the viewer to have sight to see the words in the image. All the words will have been converted to an image and so cannot be read or understood by assistive technology – thereby excluding those users of assistive technology to the information in the image. Event posters and social media posts are the main areas of problem. The solution is to ensure that any images with text in it are also accompanied by text on the web page or social post that contains the same information so it can be read by screen readers and other assistive tech.
  2. Over-formatted text can be difficult to read. Adding too many styles to text, such as colour, italicisation and underlining adds to the barriers for those with reading and learning difficulties. Don’t underline text unless it’s a link and avoid using coloured text and long runs of emboldened or italicised text for emphasis.
  3. Tables should be avoid where possible. Don’t use them for styling and neatness control as they invariably have no way for the user to navigate through the rows and columns in the right order. If you use tables, try and keep it for numerical information and avoid large tables – consider breaking the table up into a few, smaller ones.
  4. Non-accessible documents create hidden barriers. PDFs are not natively accessible and if you link from your webpage to a PDF make sure that PDF is accessible and follows the principles of having a good heading structure, image have ALT text and links are descriptive. Don’t link to PDFs that are just images or scans of documents where possible. If it’s unavoidable, tell the user near the link text that the document isn’t accessible and provide a means of contact so they can request the information in another format.

    And lastly, one of the most common aspects we come across on a daily basis – website plugins that purport to provide instant website accessibility. Put simply, they do not. The even add additional barriers to users of assistive technology as they get in the way of the user being able to interact with the web page.

  5. Plugins that promise accessibility. They cannot. Website accessibility is something that needs to be factored in when the website is created and cannot be added on top afterwards. Many aspects of website accessibility are how the site and page templates have been constructed and factor in accessibility techniques. A plugin that is installed to a website after simply provides visual tools (for the sighted!) to change fonts, colours and a few other visual aspects and do not get to the heart of website accessibility. Unless the website has been built meeting WCAG standards from the start, it cannot be made to be accessible by simply installing a plugin over the top and you are actually making it harder for those that use assistive technology to use your website.

Website accessibility help & guidance

If you are a council, UK public body or an organisation that would like to know more about how to ensure your website meets the needs of those with disabilities, you can contact Mark Tomkins for an initial, free consultation or take a look at our packages of accessible websites for parish and town councils.