What is web accessibility – simple desktop checks

The web accessibility guidelines are detailed, covering both physical and cognitive disabilities. However, there are some basic checks that anyone can run that may give an idea of the sorts of problems people may face.

Keyboard accessibility

Can you tab around the screen? For those who do not use a mouse it’s important to be able to access each area of a site. Blind users cannot see a mouse cursor and so rely on text-to-speech software to tell them where the focus is on the page. Similarly, those with mobility disabilities (that prevent them from using a mouse) need visual clues as to where they are. Also, don’t forget to check that pop-up windows can be closed without using a mouse.

Colour contrast

For those with low vision, colour blindness or reading disabilities such as dyslexia, being able to adjust the colours on a screen can be important. Hence the contrast ratio between the text and background needs to meet minimum standards, as set out in WCAG. Download a free colour contrast analyser to check you content.

Headings

Headings are one of the most important means of adding structure to a page. As well as providing visual emphasis they can be read by screen readers to aid navigation and understanding of the content. Using the WAVE toolbar, look at the page structure. Is the page styled with headings, and do they run in an appropriate hierarchical order?

Alternative text

Pictures on websites are important: they not only add to the aesthetics of a page, they also often include important information. A text alternative (“alt text”) allows anyone who cannot see the picture to know what the picture represents. Many automated checkers will search a website to check for the presence of alt text on images, but such checkers cannot tell whether the alt text is appropriate to the context or not: only a human check can do that. And of course, not every picture needs alt text. Images that are purely decorative do not (and adding it would just get in the way).

Forms

Using a screen reader (such NVDA or JAWS) can you navigate, understand and input data without being able to see the page at all? If not, you should.

Downloadable materials

Is the information your offer for download accessible? Can your PDFs be navigated and read without any problems by those using assistive technologies? Do they have sufficient colour contrast and allow readers to customise the colour scheme? Do they reflow correctly?

Conclusion

Each of these points above can cause issues for your users, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. If you would like more details, of if you would like help with fixing any problems we can help through training, audits and consultancy services.

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