Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities, and for ensuring that it can be used by a wider range of devices, including mobile devices, tablets, and assistive technologies such as screen readers.
Ensuring that your new website is WCAG compliant is important not only for legal and ethical reasons, but also because it can improve the user experience for all visitors to your site, and can help to increase its reach and effectiveness.
Here are some key steps you can take to ensure that your new website is WCAG compliant:
- Conduct an accessibility audit: Before you start building your new website, it’s important to conduct an accessibility audit to identify any potential issues or barriers that may prevent people with disabilities from accessing your content. This can be done manually, by manually testing the site and identifying any issues, or by using automated tools such as aXe or WAVE.
- Use semantic HTML: Semantic HTML refers to the use of HTML tags that clearly and accurately describe the content they contain. This can include using headings (H1, H2, etc.), lists (OL, UL, DL), and other tags that provide context and meaning to the content. Using semantic HTML can make it easier for assistive technologies such as screen readers to understand and interpret the content on your site, and can also make it easier for search engines to index and rank your pages.
- Add alt text to images: Alt text (alternative text) is a short description of an image that is displayed in place of the image when it cannot be displayed, such as when the image file is not available or when the user is using a screen reader. Adding alt text to images can help people with visual impairments understand the content of the image and can also help search engines understand the content of your site.
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content: Non-text content includes items such as images, audio and video files, and animations. It’s important to provide text alternatives for non-text content so that people using assistive technologies can access and understand the information. This can include captions and transcripts for audio and video files, and text descriptions for images.
- Use headings and lists to organize content: Headings (H1, H2, etc.) and lists (OL, UL, DL) can help to organize and structure the content on your site, making it easier for users to understand and navigate. Using headings and lists can also help assistive technologies interpret the content on your site more effectively.
- Use color contrast to improve readability: It’s important to use sufficient color contrast between the text and background colors on your site to ensure that the text is easy to read for all users, including those with visual impairments. There are a number of tools and resources available to help you choose color combinations that meet the WCAG contrast ratio requirements.
- Make sure your site is keyboard accessible: Many people with disabilities use keyboard-only navigation to access the web, so it’s important to ensure that your site is fully keyboard accessible. This means that all content and functionality on your site should be accessible using only the keyboard, without the need for a mouse.
- Use clear and descriptive link text: Links should be descriptive and clearly indicate the destination or purpose of the link. Avoid using vague or non-descriptive link text such as “click here” or “read more.”
- Test your site with assistive technologies: Once your site is built, it’s important to test it with a variety of assistive technologies to ensure that it is fully accessible to all users. This can include testing with screen readers, keyboard-only navigation, and other assistive technologies.
It’s also a good idea to test your site with a range of devices and browsers to ensure that it is fully functional and accessible across different platforms and configurations.
- Use web accessibility frameworks: There are a number of web accessibility frameworks and guidelines that can help you ensure that your site is WCAG compliant. Some examples include the Web Accessibility Initiative’s WCAG 2.1 guidelines, the Section 508 guidelines for US federal agencies, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in Canada. Familiarizing yourself with these guidelines and incorporating them into your development process can help ensure that your site meets the necessary accessibility standards.
- Consider hiring an accessibility specialist: If you’re not familiar with web accessibility best practices or if you don’t have the resources or expertise to ensure that your site is fully accessible, you may want to consider hiring an accessibility specialist to help you. An accessibility specialist can conduct an accessibility audit, provide recommendations for making your site more accessible, and help you implement those recommendations.
- Monitor and update your site regularly: Ensuring that your site is WCAG compliant is an ongoing process, and it’s important to continuously monitor and update your site to address any accessibility issues that may arise. This can include updating content to ensure that it is fully accessible, testing new features and functionality, and staying up to date with the latest accessibility guidelines and best practices.
By following these steps, you can help ensure that your new website is fully accessible and WCAG compliant, and that it is available to a wide range of users, including those with disabilities. Ensuring accessibility can not only help to improve the user experience for all visitors to your site, but it can also help to increase your site’s reach and effectiveness, and can help you meet legal and ethical obligations.