This month is deaf/blind awareness week, a time to raise awareness of those who have a combination of deafness and blindness in our society. 

This week aims to help to ensure that society is informed about what it means and the assistance out there for those who are deaf/blind, their families, friends and workplaces.

Whilst this is an immense subject due to the different types and varying levels of disabilities, here at Digital Nachos we wanted to explore how you and your business can be more inclusive to deaf and/or blind people online.

Inclusive Usability

Websites are used by people of varying abilities, ages and of course languages. It is therefore important to ensure that your website can be accessed and viewed by all.

When it comes to abilities, age and language, we all know that our websites should be easy to use no matter what your ability and age. We also know that we can have language specific websites for the various tongues that use your website, but also rely slightly on the translate functions that are offered by many internet browsers out there.

But just how do you ensure that someone who has either a partial sense, or a complete loss of a sense, can still access and view your website?

Loss of a Sense

For someone with a hearing loss or impairment, using a website in the traditional sense is still possible. However, any videos or sound will be removed from their website experience, this highlights the need for subtitles on any video clips.

If someone is completely Deaf, then there is a greater need for BSL (British Sign Language) interpreted videos and even website content within a video clip as well. There are not many websites out there that offer subtitled or BSL translated video content but it is something that is and should be continuously strived for.

If someone has a visual impairment, then using a website relies heavily on text font being a certain size and shape. Clear clickable buttons and easy to use form fields will be key.

For a someone with a complete visual impairment or blindness, then using a website will rely on website text readers. This is where a complete optimisation of your website will be key – are your headers clearly marked? Are images labelled so that its purpose is clear? Are calls to actions clearly marked and not at the bottom of a 1,000 word product description? These are all things that are important.

Whilst there are companies out there who can do accessibility assessments of your website and online presence, the easiest way to get an idea if your website is useable for someone with an impairment or loss of a key sense is to simply put yourself in their shoes.

Pop some noise cancelling headphones or a blindfold on and browse your website as if you are looking to buy. Below are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.

  • Do you find yourself not being able to enjoy one of your carefully crafted promotional videos?
  • Is there a way of of easily contacting your company for more information or assistance without needing to pick up the telephone? Live chats, email addresses and even a minicom/textphone
  • Can your website be easily navigated by a screen reader? And does it give the menu choices and calls to action in a quick and simple way?
  • Is there a way of easily contacting your company by telephone for those who are visually impaired or blind? Equally, can that telephone number be found easily within a screen reader?
  • And ultimately, what can be done or introduced to make this easier for someone with an impairment or loss of a sense?

For many of us, we never intend to block anyone with an impairment or loss of a sense from our websites. For many it is simply that we are not aware of what we can do to assist.

Whilst it makes sense to ensure that your website is accessible for all, just what is your legal responsibility to your visitors.

What is your Responsibility?

The Equality Act of 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 both state that an organisation’s website should be accessible to a disable person and if it is not then that person may have grounds for making a claim against the organisation.

Under these acts organisations have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to their websites to ensure that access is possible.

The UK government’s accessibility requirement currently states that websites and other digital services must…

  • Meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) as a minimum
  • Work on the most commonly used assistive technology, these include screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools
  • Include people who have disabilities in any user research they conduct

Due to the complexity of the various disabilities out there, no website developer or designer can claim to be able to produce a fully accessible website.

After all, the access needs for one blind or visually impaired person can entirely different to another blind or visually impaired person. However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that any website produced is accessible as it possibly can be.

Top Tips for Making Websites Accessible

Below top tips recommended by Digital Nachos to help ensure that your website is as accessible as possible.

As you can see, there are a number of elements that need to be implemented when the website is created for them to be possible.

Elements to Implement with a Website Design and Build

  • Use HTML for structure and CSS for layout
  • Use tables only for data and ensure that they are suitably labelled
  • Don’t use flash, i-frames or tables for layout purposes on site
  • Ensuring that the site can be navigated without needing a mouse, it should be possible to operate the site solely with a keyboard – this is key for many with a visual disability as they may not have the hand/eye coordination to use a mouse.
  • Don’t use a fixed font size on your website, use a % or ems
  • Marking up all instructions for completing forms with a label element – i.e. first name, surname, street, email address
  • For any forms submitted, ensuring that any errors are flagged up and that the user is informed where the error has occurred so they can fix that field/s
  • Ensuring that the colours of fonts contrast effectively from background colours and images

Elements to introduce/have from a User Experience Viewpoint

  • Use of simple language on site
  • Ensuring that text is structured correctly – i.e. header 1 (h1), header 2 (h2), header 3 (h3)… and paragraphs (p)
  • Providing alt tags for all images and alternative content for other types of media such as videos
  • Ensuring that link texts are meaningful and useful – don’t use ‘Click Here’, instead use ‘Further information on x can be found here’. All links should be underlined so that it is clear they link to further content and resources
  • Ensuring that any images overlaid with text is large and of a high contrasting colour. Avoid any busy or watermarked images in banners or promotional images

As you can see, this is a huge subject and an important part of any website design, build and ongoing use. For simplicity, ensure that you have the right advice and assistance to make your website accessible for all as possible. Contact Digital Nachos today to discuss your website's accessibility.

Published: 14th Jun 2018

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