Assistive Technology Friendly Web Design

To be inclusive of your site visitors who use assistive technology, follow these best practices when building or redesigning your website.
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Assistive technology is a sweeping term that refers to products and devices which enhance life for persons with disabilities. These products and devices include wheelchairs, prosthetics, positioning devices, learning materials, communication boards, screen readers, and much more. Assistive technology has opened up the web for users with disabilities but, when companies do not take the accessibility of their websites into account, some people find themselves unfairly excluded.

Entermedia recently completed an ADA compliance audit and ADA compliance redesign project for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.  Read on to learn about why ADA compliance is so important, how assistive technology enables people with disabilities to use your site, and what happens when your site is not structured with disabled persons’ needs in mind, especially in regards to certain design decisions, keyboard navigation-friendliness, and thoroughly structured pages. The RRF case study can be used as an ADA website compliance guide for your own site.  If you have any questions about ADA compliance, contact us.

How to Make Your Site Assistive Technology Friendly

When building or redesigning your website to accommodate users of assistive technology, keep the following points in mind:

  • Design
    • Make sure your font is legible, with appropriate color contrast and flexible scale options
    • Avoid vague content that is difficult to understand without visual context
    • Provide closed captioning for videos
  • Keyboard navigation
    • Enable focus
    • Ensure that the order of content in the code reflects the visual order of content on the page
    • When necessary, provide offscreen content for screen readers to explain visual elements
    • Add descriptive Alt text to all images
    • Add ARIA attributes to clarify HTML elements
  • Page structure
    • Give important headings weight and logical organization
    • Avoid vague links and calls to action that are difficult to understand without visual context
    • Define all page features with landmark labels

Designing for Users of Screen Readers

Many users of your site will depend on screen readers to help them navigate and interpret your site’s content. With some forethought, you can design pages that are assistive technology friendly.

Always do the following best practices:

  • Describe images concisely and accurately using alt text
  • Provide transcriptions of videos
  • follow a linear, logical page layout
  • structure content using HTML5
  • plan for users who navigate by keyboard, only
  • write descriptive text links and headings that help orient users using assistive technology readers
assistive technology infographic: designing a website for screen readers

Why Assistive Technology Friendly Web Design is so Important

If you don’t regularly interact with the web using assistive technology, imagine for a moment that you do. You’re about to meet some friends for lunch. You pull up the restaurant’s website using your screen reader, which cleverly determines what’s on the screen and presents the information to you through braille or synthetic speech. You ask your screen reader to convey what’s on the menu and it replies, “img0000234.jpg.” That doesn’t sound appetizing.

Using assistive technology to navigate an inaccessible website can be tedious and frustrating. But it can also be a demoralizing experience that violates the equal rights of a person with a disability.

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide WebTweet

In 1995, five years after the ADA was signed into law, a Newsweek article called the Internet a “fad.” But the Internet has become a powerful tool for many people with disabilities, erasing communication and participation obstacles that can exist in the physical world. When websites are designed with assistive technology in mind, companies and organizations honor the basic rights of all individuals.

Get in touch with Entermedia today to ensure your site is accessible to everyone.

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“From providing support when needed to project leadership when asked, the Entermedia team has always come through for us. We’ve been counting on Entermedia for five years to maintain several high-traffic websites in a competitive space, and have also engaged them for custom design/development projects. This crew does not disappoint. Not only have they enhanced our users’ frontend experience, improving engagement and search performance, they’ve also simplified and streamlined our backend experience, making all of our jobs easier. And we know Entermedia has our back and will reply within minutes via slack or email if we need them. Where would we be without them? Don’t want to know.”

John W.

Englewood Health

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