Lots to learn about web accessibility

Caitilin Punshon
Summary 
I run an editing and writing business called Artful Words. A few years ago I made a website for my business. Now I am creating a new one. It is important to me that my website is accessible to all visitors. I have been learning a lot about this. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines discuss issues with website accessibility. I need to think about these as I build my new website. Development, design and content all matter. There are also tools I can use to check the accessibility of my new website.
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Caitilin Punshon on 21/05/2015
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Websites should be accessible.

A few years ago I started a business called Artful Words. Through it, I provide friendly and professional editing, writing and proofreading services. I decided to make a website for Artful Words. This could let people read about my work and explore articles of interest. I knew nothing about websites to begin with. But over time I developed new skills. Now I am ready to create a better website. I want more control over its appearance, functions and features. I also want to make it accessible for all visitors. It turns out that I have a lot to learn about this.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

I found some great information in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The guidelines seek to improve the accessibility of websites by highlighting a range of issues and ways to make website improvements. Some of these improvements are about offering different ways to access web content. Others focus on making sure a website’s functions are available to all users. The guidelines contain three levels of success criteria, starting with level A. Many governments, institutions and businesses aim for level AA. Very few websites reach level AAA.

I was aware of some of the accessibility matters mentioned in WCAG. But there are many others I didn’t know about. I read many articles on accessibility and listened to interviews with experts. I’m really glad I did this research. For me, an accessible website considers and respects the experience of all users. Development, design and content all contribute to this.

Development

My new website is built on Wordpress.org using the Genesis framework. Together, these provide the underlying structure, functions and features of the site. Both Genesis and Wordpress.org deliver some level of accessibility. However, I have also installed two plugins. These are pieces of code that add more functionality to my website.

One of these plugins is called WP Accessibility. It reminds me to give descriptions to my images for people who may not be able to see them. It also lets me add an accessibility menu to my site. This allows users to change the contrast, colours and font size. The other plugin is Genesis Accessibility. It has some of the same features as WP Accessibility but works specifically with websites on the Genesis framework. With it, I can enable skiplinks. These will make it easier for people using screen readers to move about on my web pages.

Design

It is important to me that my website is attractive and inviting as well as accessible. I have tried to create a logical layout and clean appearance. Nothing spins, flashes, resizes or pops up on my site. Nor does it have any sliders. These display a revolving selection of images or messages. They are not usually accessible.

I have chosen a high colour contrast between the background and text. Even so, I know that different people might still find it difficult to read. My menus should all be available via keyboard, thanks to the Genesis Accessibility plugin. I will also make sure all forms on my site are accessible. There are a number of online tools I can use to check the accessibility of each page. One of these is the WAVE website accessibility evaluation tool. Another is the Tenon automated accessibility testing service.

Content

Artful Words focuses on helping people craft their written expression. I love good writing and I want my readers to engage with the words on my website. Sometimes my writing gets a bit fancy. But through working for DiVine, I have become more aware of keeping it simple. I write about topics like grammar on my website. I try to explain such subjects plainly so everyone can understand them. (But I still have fun with my language too!) Again, there are online tools I can use to see how easy it will be for people to read my articles.

Welcoming and enjoyable

Accessibility matters a lot to me. That’s not only for websites, but life more generally. I don’t see it as just being about people with disabilities either. Instead, accessibility is simply good design that benefits everybody. I’m sure many DiVine readers will know a lot more about web accessibility than me. I would love to hear your experiences and frustrations. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on learning. I want to make my Artful Words website welcoming and enjoyable for anyone who wishes to visit it.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (opens in a new window)
WAVE website accessibility tool (opens in new window)
Tenon (opens in new window)

 

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