Website Accessibility: How to Reach Everyone in Your Audience
In today’s tech-driven world, the education sector is rapidly embracing digitalization, advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and a digital approach to teaching and learning. Universities and schools around the world, as well as online learning platforms, increasingly understand the importance of accessibility. Ensuring that every student regardless of their lifestyle, background, and most importantly, their ability, can access all educational resources.
Website accessibility is therefore an important topic nowadays, especially when we consider the fact that the U.S. Department of Education is rolling out compliance reviews specifically focused on digital accessibility in the education sector. This focus helps the education sector move forward as a whole, and that’s why today we are exploring website accessibility. Below, we share how you can use it to reach everyone in your audience while ensuring compliance across the board.
What is Web Accessibility and What Does it Entail?
Web accessibility refers to the design and development of websites that can be used by people with disabilities, including visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments. For businesses, education institutions, and online learning platforms, it encompasses a set of guidelines and standards that aim to make websites more usable and accessible to everyone, regardless of ability.
In the real world and given the various needs of an audience, web accessibility design can entail many things, including the use of appropriate colors, font sizes, alt text for images, and keyboard navigation. Whether you’re re-optimizing an existing website or building a new one, you need to keep these and other features that we’ll talk about today in mind to encompass your entire audience.
Creating an Accessibility Strategy for a New Website
When creating a new website, it's essential to have an accessibility strategy in place to ensure that your site is inclusive to all users. Keep in mind that this strategy is not just intended to help create an accessible website, but also to enable lifelong learning in your visitors and motivate diverse audiences to keep coming back.
You can start building your accessibility strategy on the following key pillars:
- Conduct an accessibility audit of your current site to identify any existing accessibility issues and areas for improvement.
- Research your target audience and determine the accessibility needs of your users, focusing on people with disabilities.
- Create a checklist of accessibility guidelines and standards that you need to adhere to when designing and developing your website. This checklist should include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
- Incorporate continuous accessibility testing into your website development process, whether you want to start a blog or an interactive online learning platform, to ensure that the site is fully accessible and usable by all users.
- Focus on content quality, continuous posting, interactivity, and building a community on your website to keep people coming back.
Importance of Using the Right Content Management System
The content management system (CMS) you choose for your website can play a significant role in its accessibility. A CMS that is designed with accessibility in mind will open numerous channels of communication for an online education platform. It will allow you to effectively include alt text for images, headings, and ARIA landmarks, color contrasts, voice reading, and various accessibility features in a centralized system before publishing.
With all of that in mind, when choosing a CMS, consider the following:
- Accessibility support. Does the CMS provide built-in support for accessibility, such as accessibility-ready themes and plugins?
- Customization options. Can you customize the CMS to meet your specific accessibility needs, such as changing the font size and color palette?
- Documentation and community support. Does the CMS have a strong community of developers and users who can help you with accessibility issues and provide support when needed?
Personalizing the Website to the Audience
Personalizing your website to meet the needs of your audience is critical to create an inclusive and accessible website experience. Considering that you have already conducted your research and have familiarized yourself with the needs of your audience, you can personalize your website’s visuals and content to inspire engagement, build a devoted community, and incentivize word-of-mouth, shares, and interaction among users.
To succeed at website personalization at scale and personalize the experience to your entire audience pool, focus on these key pillars:
- Content. Make sure your content is accessible and easy to understand, including the use of plain language and accessible formatting.
- Navigation. Ensure that navigation is intuitive and easy to use, with clear and descriptive headings, links, and menus.
- Interactivity. Provide interactive elements that are accessible to users with disabilities, such as keyboard navigation and alternative text for images.
Must Have Website Accessibility Features
Last but not least, to ensure that your website is fully accessible, you should incorporate the following accessibility features.
- Alt text in images. This feature allows users with visual impairments to understand the content of an image through a text description.
- ARIA landmarks. These landmarks are HTML tags that provide clear and descriptive labels for different sections of your website, making it easier for users with disabilities to navigate.
- Keyboard navigation. As the term implies, this feature allows users who cannot use a mouse to navigate your website using only a keyboard.
- Resizable text. This feature allows users to increase or decrease the font size of your website, making it easier to read for users with visual impairments.
- Color contrast. Ensure that the color palette used on your website has sufficient contrast, or provide a dedicated high-contrast mode that users can turn on or off.
You could also consider providing assistive technology features that will allow your users to interact with your content in the way that suits them best.
Over to you
Website accessibility has become an important topic in the education sector nowadays, as education institutions and online learning platforms embrace eLearning and digital technologies. Now that you know what website accessibility is, why it’s important, and how to use it to reach everyone in your audience, implement these changes to maximize the potential of your educational website in 2023.
Luke is a Copywriter, Content Creator, and Social Media Manager working in a freelance capacity for a range of clients, businesses, and agencies. He has many years of experience crafting quality content for various marketing requirements.