Web Accessibility for Small Businesses: A Starter Guide

spongebob squarepants with karen plankton
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It is a truth universally acknowledged that having an online presence in the form of a blog or web page is paramount to running a business. But when it comes to amplifying one’s message, very few have thought about how to expand their readership beyond the traditional routes of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing. Business owner, say hi to the internet’s long ignored friend: Web Accessibility.

What is Web Accessibility?

Simply put, web accessibility means making the content on your site as readable, understandable, and easy to navigate as possible. Now one might counter: But if I can read and understand my site then everyone should be able to right? Spoiler: NO!

Should my business bother with web accessibility?

A common misconception is that web accessibility applies only to people with disabilities, but the truth is all of us at one point or another have required it in some form. Not convinced? Make a mental check-off for every statement you can relate to below:

  • The text on a website is really small, especially on mobile.
  • The colours on the site makes the text hard to read.
  • I keep clicking on the wrong link because the links were too close together.
  • The page is not in the language I am familiar with.
  • I can’t figure out how get to the next step on the page. Guess I’ll just use the “Help” button.
  • There’s text everywhere and I can’t find the information I came here for.

“A common misconception is that web accessibility applies only to people with disabilities.”

Chances are you checked off at least 2 items on the list. Know that many of the above scenarios are amplified if you are middle-aged, above middle-aged, or have some form of physical disability, whether permanent or temporary (e.g. recovering from corrective eye surgery, a sprained wrist, etc.).

A Beginner’s Guide to Web Accessibility

Although true accessibility requires a lot effort, planning, and time—not to mention quite a bit of manpower, the good news is it can be done in phases, and you can start with the elements already present on your site:

1. Choose the right template

If your blog or site is created through a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, make sure you choose a template that is accessible. This means the creator of the template has taken the trouble to design the colours, fonts, and other elements readable and easy to navigate.

the theme directory on wordpress
WordPress has a directory of accessible themes

2. Use headings

Choosing header types on WordPress

When writing articles, make sure to order your ideas with headings. Headings help readers scan through an article for main ideas and allows those with visual impairments to navigate the article easily. Heading 1 (H1) is usually used for the title of the article, and that setting comes with most blog themes. For subheadings, use Heading 2 (H2).

Do not skip heading levels. Always use headings in sequential order (e.g. H2 followed by H3). Skipping heading levels will affect the hierarchy of the content on your article, and may confuse readers.

3. Make links noticeable

Write links with at least 3 words underlined
Image source

Links should be at least three words long. This provides a little more surface area for people who have difficulty using a mouse/trackpad with precision (e.g. someone with a sprained wrist). When writing links, use descriptive text as opposed to a generic “CLICK HERE” or “read more”. Also, avoid using the entire link itself as link text.

4. Don’t leave the alternative text field empty

Alternative text gives visually impaired users a textual description of your image, making it easier for them to understand your article. In the event that an image doesn’t load, the alternative text will appear in its place, which will give sighted users an idea of what was meant to be there in the first place.

5. Choose the right fonts

The differences between serif and san serif fonts
Image source

Choose a font that’s designed for screen readability. Verdana and Tahoma are popular san serif fonts for online reading. For more classic-looking fonts, Georgia and Merriweather are quite easy on the eyes. Besides picking the right font, it’s also important to make sure there is sufficient contrast between the font colour and the background colour.

6. Writing

Short, concise sentences make it easy for anyone to get your message. It also helps those reading your page with a language translator get better quality translations. If your article is particularly long, use headings, bullet points, and images to break up large bodies of text and give your reader a bit of a breather.

7. Translation

google translator page
Google website translator

No time or money to get your site translated? Google provides a free website translator plugin that embeds Google Translator directly into your website. This is particularly useful for companies with overseas operations.

Ready to take your accessibility even deeper? Check out these resources to learn how to make your site FULLY accessible.

What is web accessibility?
How accessible are you? Here’s a useful checklist!
Picking and using the right fonts
Writing more meaningful link text
How to write alternative text for your images

Header image source: Spongebob Squarepants

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