No-nonsense ways to improve website accessibility for the visually impaired

What do NBC, Playboy, and Minnesota have in common? We won’t make you guess—each was hit with a lawsuit over website accessibility complaints.

Having an accessible online presence for the visually impaired isn’t a bonus, it’s crucial. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies and federally-funded programs to be convenient for people with disabilities.

Guaranteeing a cohesive, inclusive, and accessible user experience across all platforms is tricky. Housing authorities that proactively improve their website navigation avoid expensive lawsuits and become more accessible to everyone in their community.

Is your housing authority’s website optimized for the visually impaired?

The chances are high that your housing authority already updated their website for mobile accessibility. But, you should also get acquainted with the elements that make a site functional for disabled adults.

Check your site for accessibility. You can even download a screen reader and try it out for yourself. Then consider how to improve the user experience for those aided by screen readers and other assistive technologies.

See, screen readers aren’t reading the screen. Instead, the process is similar to how Google processes your website for search engine results, which is why if you work on your accessibility, you’ll increase your online reach.

Improve accessibility with clear metadata.

With roughly 10% of all adult Americans reporting difficulty seeing with glasses or contacts or identifying as blind, online accessibility allows vision-impaired individuals to navigate your website.

Similar to SEO, by adding alternative tags, you improve the screen reader’s ability to read images, infographics, and videos on the page. Plus, you’ll enhance your search engine results with naturally occurring keywords in the alt tags.

  • Use clear titles, file names, and URLs. Read your file names and URLs out loud. If it sounds confusing, then it probably is. Make each word count with clarity.
  • Add alt tags for all images and videos. Keep it precise. There’s no need to say “picture of,” instead describe what the image is, its purpose, and function. If it’s a quote image, then use the text on the photo in your alt tag. If the image links to a specific page, then include this information.

Make videos, PDF files, and PowerPoint presentations accessible.

Screen readers can’t read PDF files, videos, or PowerPoint presentations, and user experience depends on accessibility. If you don’t include additional information or alternative methods of viewing the document, then you limit access to those who need your services.

Take the extra steps to ensure that your videos, PDF files, and PowerPoint presentations work for everyone.

  • Prioritize transcripts for all videos. Ideally, you use closed captioning as well, as both Google and screen readers translate this data.
  • Turn PDF files and PowerPoint presentations into Word docs or use PDF tags.
  • For any data that you’re unable to make available online, include a request form so the client can receive transcripts.

Use accessible UX design principles.

When it comes to website design, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation reported that of 260 federal websites surveyed two years in a row,

  • 38% improved their accessibility score,
  • 26% saw declining ratings,
  • while 28% failed the test.

The ideas are simple on paper—provide alternative text, use labels for buttons, and make sure your content stands out on the page.

However, implementing these strategies on an older website often proves difficult.

While modernizing your site is the best action to ensure availability and avoid litigation, often the first step is realizing you have a problem. Create a list of web and UX tasks that’ll improve accessibility to your site. Then seek out resources and develop a strategy that ensures everyone who needs your services can navigate your website.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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