Beauty & Brains in Branding & Web

Accessibility in Web Design

Screen readers assist the visually impaired by describing onscreen elements as they browse the web, making the user experience more accessible.If I told you that your website’s design rendered it inaccessible to millions of people, you’d probably treat it like a pretty big deal. Well if your site isn’t accessible to the hearing and visually impaired, conservative estimates suggest that you may be deterring at least 15.5 million consumers in the USA alone. Tim Berner’s Lee, known as the inventor of the World Wide Web has said, “the power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” To this end, lets talk about the importance of accessibility in web design.

Colour Deficiency

Did you know that 8% of men and 0.05% of women have colour deficient vision? Individuals with colour blindness may not see things the way you do. In the example below, you probably see a 74. But a user with colour blindness may see 21, or nothing at all.

This image of a green "74" on an orange circle may be difficult to interpret for those with colour deficient vision.

Now think about the text and background colours on your site. Is their sufficient contrast? Are there too many different colours? Two tactics for tackling colour blindness when designing for web are:

  • Clear text / background contrasts
  • A monochromatic colour scheme (variable shades of a small, complementary colour set)

Monochromatic schemes are especially effective because those who suffer from colour deficiency typically don’t have difficulty differentiating shades of the same colour. Using varying shades of the same colour for your background also simplifies the selection of a contrasting text colour.

Visual Impairment

For users who suffer from more severe visual impairments, there are many assistive technologies to enable web browsing. It’s common for visually impaired computer users to rely on screen readers that audibly describe elements on screen. Probably the most significant component of screen readers in the context of web design is their ability to read image “Alt” tags. By taking the time to include detailed image descriptions in your alt tags, you can provide people using screen readers with richer online experience.

Another consideration for the visually impaired is text size and magnification. Content targeted towards aging users who may suffer from deteriorating vision should feature large text or the ability to toggle an enlarged font size.

Closed Caption

Closed caption and subtitling has been making video accessible to the hearing impaired since long before the Internet age. What’s fascinating about closed caption online is that 80% of those who use it DO NOT have impaired hearing. Examples of scenarios where closed caption might be useful include:

  • When watching video in a crowded space eg: airports or restaurants
  • When details or lists are important eg: following a recipe
  • When multitasking eg: while on the phone
  • When silence is a priority eg: office or library

The popularity of closed caption highlights just why accessible design is so important. By making web browsing accessible to anyone, we improve the experience for EVERYONE.

Interested in web accessibility? We’ll be covering more on this subject so subscribe to HTC’s blog. 

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About Lucas

Lucas is a native of Montreal and completed degrees in Film and Professional Writing at Concordia University. As our web and multimedia producer, he assists clients looking to develop new web initiatives and supports the success of our websites through the implementation of multimedia projects. Alongside his interest in creative work, Lucas also has a passion for technology, comics, and all things geek. He can be contacted at lucas[at]htc.ca