How to Make Your Website More Accessible

Jillean Kearney
Jillean Kearney
Feb 9, 2015

How to Make Your Website More Accessible

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is legislation enacted by the provincial government in 2005. It set out goals and guidelines to make Ontario accessible by the year 2025.

Ontario's accessibility legislation includes website usability. An accessible website accommodates the different ways that people with disabilities navigate websites and consume online content. 

AODA requires that all non-profit and private organizations (with 50 or more employees) and all public sector organizations make their websites accessible for users with disabilities.

The website accessibility requirements are based on the internationally accepted best practices outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. These guidelines are divided into three levels of accessibility: A, AA and AAA (the highest level of accessibility).

There are two significant dates related to AODA's website accessibility requirements. The first was January 1, 2014. After this date, a public website that is launched or significantly refreshed (and any of its content published after January 1, 2012) must comply with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAC) 2.0 Level A.

On January 1, 2021, all public websites and their content (published after January 1, 2012) must comply with WGAC 2.0, Level AA, with the exception of captioning live videos and audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos.

Tip: Websites that comply with accessibility guidelines rank higher on search engine results pages. Google, and other search engines, use similar guidelines to rank websites.

How to Get Started

In order to make your website more accessible, you need to understand how accessible or inaccessible your current setup is. You can do this by running it through an online web accessibility checker, like AChecker.

A manual assessment is also important as it can identify issues that an automatic assessment isn't able to pick up, like whether captions and alternative texts are appropriate for an image.

Additionally, testing your website using assistive technology, like a screen reader, is a great way to see where your website can be improved in terms of accessibility.

How to Make Your Website More Accessible

While some accessibility requirements will be complex and time extensive, below are some changes and updates that you can make right now to comply with web accessibility guidelines.

Strongly contrast text from background colors: Users with low vision capabilities or color blindness will have a difficult time consuming content that lacks contrast. Use an online contrast analyzer, like WebAIM, to see if your color combo is accessible.

Provide captions and alternative texts for all images: For a user consuming your content using a screen reader, they'll rely on it to read aloud an image's description from the provided caption and alternative text. If a description isn't provided, the user won't be able to tell what the image is.

Don't use blinking images: While flashy website components can capture some users' attentions, blinking images that flash more than three times per second can induce a seizure for a user with epilepsy.

Label links appropriately: Screen readers should be able to easily scan any links on a webpage and the user should be able to understand where the link goes without having to click on it. So instead of hyper-linking the words "click here," be more detailed and instead link "click here for more information about our this event."

Stay away from CAPTCHAs: CAPTCHAs are used to tell whether a user is human by requiring them to type characters from a distorted image into a text field. This mechanism is impossible for a visually impaired person to use. An accessible alternative is to provide an audio option along with your CAPTCHA or to ask users to answer a simple question instead.

Don't impose time restrictions: When asking users to provide information or fill out a form, try to avoid time limits for their response. If time limits are necessary, provide the option to extend the time limit.

Ensure that content is keyboard accessible: Some users will need to navigate your website by only using their keyboards. By providing a well-structured site that can be navigated through intuitively, it will be easier for a user to consume your content with their keyword and other assisstive technologies.

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