The Comprehensive Guide to Accessibility in Web Development
Rahul / February 01, 2023
8 min read • ––– views
You've probably heard this before: web accessibility is important. But what does that mean for you, the web developer? Simply put, it means creating a website that can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
In this comprehensive guide, i'll walk you through everything you need to know about creating an accessible website.
What Is Accessibility in Web Development?
When it comes to web accessibility, you might be wondering: what is it, and why is it important? Simply put, web accessibility refers to making sure that all users—regardless of physical ability or impairment—can use the web with ease. This includes people who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, have a motor disability, or any other impairment.
Making your website accessible is the right thing to do, period. But it's also important from a business standpoint.
The population of people with disabilities is growing every day, and they have a lot of spending power. By making your website accessible, you're not just doing the right thing, you're also opening your business up to a whole new market.
How Web Accessibility Helps People With Disabilities
When you design your website with accessibility in mind, you're opening it up to people of all abilities. That means people in wheelchairs, with visual impairments, or who experience hearing loss can all use your site.
Web accessibility is about making sure that everyone has the same opportunities to use the web. This includes people with disabilities, seniors, and people in developing countries who may not have access to the same kind of technology that we do.
When you design for accessibility, you're not just making your website more inclusive—you're also making it easier to use for everyone. People with disabilities often rely on assistive technologies to access the web, which can include screen readers, magnifiers, and alternative keyboards. By making your website accessible, you're making it possible for these technologies to work well with your site.
Integrating Web Accessibility Into the Development Process
Making your website accessible to everyone should be a priority for any web developer. Luckily, integrating accessibility into the development process is not as daunting as it may seem.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when building an accessible website: start with the basics, use common design patterns, and test, test, test.
It’s important to start with the basics, such as providing alternative text (alt-text) for images and making sure navigation menus are properly labeled.
\You also want to limit your use of color, as certain colors may be difficult to see for certain users. As many accessibility elements are based on best practices that have been efined over time, opting for common web design patterns will help you achieve an accessible website.
Once your website is built, you should test it across multiple browsers and devices to make sure everything is in proper working order. You should also use testing tools to check the accessibility of your site, including assistive technologies such as screen readers. Properly testing your website is essential to ensuring that your website works for people of all abilities.
It is also important to be mindful of the language used on your website. Aim for a tone that is professional, yet friendly and conversational. Avoid using words or phrases that could be seen as negative or encouraging discrimination.
Finally, when hosting an accessible website, it is important to be aware of global laws, regulations, and standards that pertain to web accessibility. This includes policies such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Understanding these policies can help you create an inclusive web experience.
By following the tips outlined above, web developers can take meaningful steps to improve the accessibility of their websites. Integrating accessibility into the development process requires some extra effort but is essential for providing a fair and inclusive experience for all users.
Tools for Helping to Ensure Accessibility
When it comes to making sure that your web development project is accessible, there are plenty of tools available to help you out. In fact, there are even entire services devoted to testing and verifying that your project meets the required accessibility standards.
One popular tool for testing web accessibility is Tenon.io, which uses automated testing and manual reviews to ensure that your project meets the necessary criteria. Another useful tool is Ax, an open source accessibility testing engine that can be integrated into existing development workflows.
Finally, Wave is a browser extension that allows you to test pages in real-time and quickly diagnose any issues with their accessibility. You can also use contrast checkers like Contrast Checker to ensure that any images and text used in your webpages meet the minimum contrast requirements.
Using these tools will help you make sure that your website development project meets all the necessary accessibility standards and is usable by everyone who visits it.
Testing for and Debugging Your Code
Testing and debugging your code is an important part of the accessibility process. It's important to know if your code works for people with disabilities. It's also important to make sure that you are not introducing any new accessibility errors when you are making changes to existing code.
There are several tools available to help you test and debug your code, such as WebAIM WAVE, Ax, and Tenon. You can also use automated testing tools such as Google’s Lighthouse or Firefox’s Accessibility Inspector.
Manual testing is also important, as automated testing tools can miss some errors. Manual testing often involves people with accessibility needs reviewing your code.
They can observe how your code works for them and report any problems. This type of testing is invaluable because it helps you to understand the real-life implications of your code.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides guidelines for web accessibility. They provide detailed recommendations on how to make your code accessible, as well as best practices for testing and debugging your code. Following these guidelines will help you ensure that your code is accessible for everyone.
When debugging your code, it's important to look for common accessibility issues such as poor color contrast, lack of keyboard access, or missing alt-text.
Fixing these problems is essential to making sure that your code is accessible. Additionally, you should pay attention to any errors that the automated and manual testing tools report.
This will help you to identify and fix any errors that the automated tools may have missed.
Testing and debugging your code is an important part of the accessibility process, and should be done on a regular basis. This will help ensure that your code remains accessible and up-to-date.
As web development technologies evolve, you should regularly review your code and make sure that it is accessible by the latest standards.
By doing this, you can make sure that your code works for people with disabilities, regardless of their environment or device.
How to Build an Accessible Website From Scratch
If you're looking to build an accessible website completely from scratch, the most important thing is to make sure that the website is built with accessibility in mind. First and foremost, you should use a robust frontend framework like React or Vue. These frameworks come with components that are already built with accessibility in mind and are easily customizable.
You should also take advantage of libraries like
eslint-plugin-jsx-a11y, which create linter rules that will help you detect accessibility issues early on. It’s always better to catch an issue before it gets out of hand!
Finally, it's important to use standard HTML5 markup and ensure that all elements have the correct semantic meaning. This will allow the browser to interpret the content correctly and properly display it for screen readers.
In addition, you should test your websites with the WAVE accessibility test from WebAIM. This will help you catch any accessibility issues that may otherwise be overlooked.
Furthermore, it’s important to consider color contrast and make sure your website is readable with enough contrast between foreground and background elements.
It’s also beneficial to use ARIA attributes to expand the built-in accessibility of HTML elements. Using ARIA attributes, you can add extra semantics to each element on your page, making it easier for screen readers to understand.
Lastly, make sure to pay special attention to form elements, as they tend to have complex behaviors that can be difficult to manage without proper accessibility support.
Building an accessible website from scratch requires a lot of effort and dedication, but the end result will be worth it. An accessible website allows everyone to use and enjoy your content, regardless of disability, environment, or device.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your website is as accessible as possible.
So, to sum up, following the guidelines provided in this guide should set you on the path to creating an accessible website. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and you may find that you need to make some adjustments to make your site more accessible. But, by and large, these are the steps you need to take to make your website accessible to as many people as possible.