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Essential Accessibility Tactics For Every Site

Posted on 5.28.2008
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Accessibility on the Web is one of the topics that no one really likes to talk about seriously because it's about as exciting as [insert your own humorous yet relevant analogy here]. As the ranks of Web users continues to grow however, it's not enough to just comply with ADA (American Disabilities Act) requirements but do it in a way that does not alienate the rest of a websites' audience. Accessibility when it comes to general website design is more than just meeting the needs of the disabled, it implies that we satisfy the preferences of all of our users and how they access our site.

Here are a few important and increasingly essential accessibility tools and tactics you may want to consider implementing:

CSS-less browsing : Since many mobile devices are unable to use CSS for web page rendering, it is important to make sure your site can be viewed and browsed in a way that will not alienate users when CSS is turned off. Perhaps the quickest and easiest way to test how your site appears is to utilize the popular "Web Developer Toolbar" which can show you with the click of a button what your site looks like when CSS is not available. Designing your site with mobile accessibility in mind will ensure that it scales properly for different browsers, mobile phones, screen readers, etc. By doing this you'll capture more of your target audience.

Resizable fonts : In a perfect world, all websites would use relative (rather than absolute) font sizing. The reason is that relative sizing allows your website visitors to resize the font to their preference. While designers might lose some control over how the page appears, that is certainly better than losing the visitor entirely because the font is too difficult to read. In addition to resizable fonts, you might want to learn more about fixed, fluid and elastic layouts and their importance in relation to accessibility.

Alternate image text :  When it comes to image-heavy websites, there is no greater boon to the accessibility of a website than alternate image text (or alt txt or alt tags). Any visual images on a page (except those used for page formatting) should contain alternate text describing the image. While there are SEO benefits that come with using alternate image text, the intended benefit is that it ensures that the image is properly described for text readers and those surfing with images turned off.

While certainly not a comprehensive list of accessibility tactics, they are unarguably important ones to consider implementing at your own website. What accessibility tips do you have for other Website Magazine readers? Log in now to share your comments!
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