According to the American Foundation for the Blind, only 43% of students who have vision loss are using the internet. This is significantly lower than the percentage of non-disabled students who use the internet on a regular basis.
This number is not restricted to students either. With visually impaired Americans finding the internet to be difficult to navigate, many of them miss out on the informative world that the net offers.
So what can you do to transform your site and create a more accessible web for visually impaired users?
Follow along to learn 5 ways you can create an accessible website and open up your content for blind citizens.
How Blind People Access the Web
Because blind users can’t read the text on the screen or view the images, they rely on a few different aids to navigate the internet. With technologies like screen readers and braille displays, they are able to take in the content and gather information from your site.
Of course, clicking on links or moving throughout the site will also be different than non-disabled users. Instead of using a mouse and clicking through your navigation, they will rely on speech recognition software to turn their voice commands into actions.
Similar to the way you may ask Google Assistant or Alexa to perform a search, these speech recognition programs will help blind users access each page and element on your site.
Seeing as over half of the population in America has some form of disability, the American’s with Disabilities Act was formed to assist these individuals. The act outlines a set of web accessibility laws that private businesses who fall into the applicable categories must observe.
- Food or drink services
- Public gathering
- Sales or rentals
- Public transit
- Educational facilities
- Social services
If your business falls into any of these labels, you may be obligated by law to ensure adequate accessibility.
Creating an Accessible Web
Whether you are legally obligated to improve internet accessibility or you are simply interested in making your website more readily available, there are a few steps you can take to create a blind-friendly website.
If a website redesign is out of reach for your business, you’ll be happy to discover each of these measures are simple tweaks you can make and services you can offer.
- Convert Images Into Text
While images with text may read the same for your non-visually impaired users, screen readers and braille displays won’t be able to relay image text for audible reading.
If you rely on images throughout your site to relay important information, you’ll need to break these documents down into text. This way, they can be easily translated by assistance services. However, this process may prove to be time-consuming for lengthy image documents.
Fortunately, you can skip the manual conversion of image to text with the use of clever systems that automatically extract text from your images.
This is a perfect solution to a labor-intensive job that ensures systems will have the best chance of translating your content for blind users.
- Create Descriptive Titles
This serves two purposes for the accessibility of your site. First, it will allow the user to easily understand what a link is leading to without too much back and forth navigation. Second, it enables more accurate voice control for link following.
Having links connected to similar anchor texts will cause confusion for voice-activated navigation and makes for a frustrating experience.
Organize your site into clear, easy to understand headings for the best blind-friendly website experience.
- Use Valid HTML
Blind aid software relies heavily on standard HTML to translate sites. Your HTML is the coding that is used to form images and text. If you haven’t accurately coded your content, it won’t be translated effectively.
Most of these softwares will compact your entire site into one page. This makes the use of great headers and proper links essential. Having a page remaining with nothing but ‘click here’ links will prove difficult navigation.
- Describe Images
An image is worth a thousand words, so you want to be able to convey these images to your web users. While it shouldn’t take you a thousand words to clearly describe the contents of your images, there are a few tips you can use to write better image descriptions.
Keep your descriptions brief and concise. There’s no need to go into elaborate details or draw out adjectives. The description will be molded into the rest of your content and shouldn’t take up too much attention.
Try to state the most important or essential information first rather than making it an afterthought. You also don’t need to worry about starting off with ‘this is an image of’. This concept will be gathered already so you can jump straight to the good stuff and avoid space-filling words.
Focus more on the function of your images then the literal break down. If you are using the image as a link, consider how following this link through the picture would look. Take context into consideration as well as it can significantly impact the integrity of a photo.
And of course, if your images are just there to fill space or lead the eye through with no real contribution, leave them out. Don’t disrupt the flow by having irrelevant images described through your work.
- Provide Skip Links
Incorporate skip links into your pages for an amplified experience. Use descriptive anchor text to allow users to skip over repetitive information or jump to the desired point of content.
Using headers as key landing points is a great way to allow fast and efficient navigation of your text documents to gather the information they were looking for. While it may feel counterintuitive to allow a user to skip past your content, enabling this easy finding function will increase satisfaction with your site and encourage return visits.
Launch Your Accessible Website
Now that you understand the key elements to transition your site to the accessible web format, you can open up a whole new world for your blind audience. Set forth with your new knowledge and meet those web accessibility laws with ease.
Want to learn more about marketing your accessible website to the public? Check out our digital marketing and SEO blogs to discover everything you need to know about the online business world.