Two websites can look exactly the same but one is accessible and the other isn’t.

If accessibility is not about the visual design, what is it about? Here are 5 features that distinguish an accessible website from an inaccessible one.

  1. The presentation of the content can be changed by the person visiting the site to suit their own needs. For example, a person using a screen reader can access the text content as audio; a person with dyslexia can change the font to one they find easier to read; a person with a hearing impairment can read a transcript of any audio on the site.
  2. Essential images on the website will have text labels; for example, the main site navigation might consist of a row of image buttons across the top of the page. For someone using a screen reader as long as those buttons have text labels attached to them (for example, using the alt attribute) then the navigation will be just be as accessible to them as it is to a sighted visitor.
  3. The page content will be well organised and use headings and sub-headings; and those headings and sub-headings will be organised logically. For example, the main heading on the page should be ‘marked up’ using H1, sub-headings should be ‘marked up’ using h2 – and headings below those will be ‘marked up’ as h3. Viewing only the headings on the page will give a clear indication of the topics on the page and how they relate to each other.
  4. Link text will make sense when read out of context. Many people use software tools to summarise web pages by showing just the links on the page. If all the links say , ‘read more’ or ‘click here’ then the visitor won’t know what to click because none of the links tell them where they will end up? A page that is accessible will have links that still make sense when read out of context, i.e. if all the links are just presented in a long list those links still make sense to a visitor.
  5. Contact forms will work even when Javascript is turned off or not available. Not everyone uses a conventional web browser; some people use text only browsers or custom browsers designed to suit their particular access need. Text only browser don’t tend to support Javascript so it is important that the functionality of forms relies on the use of Javascript. Accessible websites will create working forms first – and only after that will the fancy javascript (enabling functionally) be added (e.g. instant form checking).

Get in touch if you have any website accessibility questions you need answered or if you have feedback about this article.

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You will learn both the techniques of accessible website design and an entire ‘framework for thinking about the subject’. It will equip you with the skills to understand, identify and fix issues any accessibility issues you come across. Watch the free videos to get a taste of what is on the course. Video image from Web Accessibility Online Training Course - WCAG 2.1 Compliance

Working with non-profits, charities, voluntary and public sector organisations and social enterprises for over 20 years. Jim set up one of the worlds first website accessibility web agencies in the mid 1990s.