The burden of accessibility does not fall solely on the IT department.
People with all kinds of disabilities must be able to access your website, but they also need to be able to understand your content easily. Producing content that is Section 508 compliant is relatively simple but you must be intentional. With attention in a few areas, you can produce compelling content that is also accessible to all users.
1. Be clear and organized in your writing.
All users, not just those with disabilities, benefit from text that is easy to understand. Include a single main point in each paragraph. Is your entire page well-organized and easy to follow? Think through an introduction, support, and a conclusion. Additionally, use clear captions to describe images, charts, videos, and audio presentations.
2. Include appropriate headings.
Programmers know how important it is to use proper headings when they build a page. Content-writers, however, can increase a page’s accessibility by keeping headings clear and understandable. If your webpage has a logical flow, users will be better able to scan it for overall meaning. Some users also have cognitive disabilities that can impact their ability to read or retain information. For them, headings can help them follow the organization of your website.
3. Include text versions of multimedia.
If a user cannot see or hear, they will miss out on important content. Provide captions or transcripts for videos and audio components. Not only do they allow all users to experience your content, text versions of your multimedia content is searchable. That allows your users to discover your content more easily.
4. Use accessible online forms.
Online forms are a place where inaccessibility is a significant problem. If users with disabilities cannot navigate online forms, the forms are a barrier to equivalent access. Be sure your online forms include clear instructions. Additionally, add field labels so that all users can understand. Use a better submit. For example, an application’s submit button could read, “Submit application” rather than just “Submit.” Small changes are surprisingly impactful.
5. Provide alternate versions of infographics.
Infographics are increasingly prevalent, but they are virtually inaccessible to users with disabilities. Screen readers or assistive technology is not able to properly process images. To circumvent this problem, add or link to a text-based version so assistive technology can translate it.
6. Clarify your hyperlinks.
Few people give much thought to their link text, but it can be a navigational tool for users with disabilities. Phrases like “click here” or “more” do not help users understand where the link will take them. Some users use screen readers to jump from link to link in order to skim the webpage. To help them navigate, be as descriptive as possible when creating your link text.
The proper technical components of web accessibility are most important, of course; good content must be part of an accessible website. However, accessibility and 508 compliance even impacts content.