November 4, 2014

Wheelchairs and Websites: Web Accessibility

My husband and I were in Vegas a couple of weeks ago and decided to go on the Hoover Dam tour.

When getting off the bus my kneecap had suddenly decided it didn’t want to stay where it had been for the last 26 years of my life. It was time to move around, apparently.

Leaving out lots of painful details, the result was I got to spend the Hoover Dam tour in a wheelchair with my poor husband pushing me around everywhere.

It’s amazing how when we find ourselves in situations we’re not normally in, we gain an appreciation for those who deal with these complications on a daily basis.

Truthfully, being in a wheelchair in the middle of a dam – it’s not easy. When they started building the dam in 1931, I don’t think they considered making it wheelchair accessible was top priority. Luckily, they have done a remarkable job of working with what they have to make it wheelchair accessible. It’s still difficult though. And I feel for those, who, this is their daily reality.

As my husband was wheeling me around on the top of the dam I realized that their are a lot of things I normally take for granted that I just wasn’t going to be able to do on this trip.

Normally, I would have walked the entire length of the dam and then hiked up river some to take way too many pictures. That wasn’t going to happen this time. My view was now restricted to what I could see from sitting in my wheelchair.

How this relates

Now, I realize you want to know what in the world this has to do with your website.

Since I’m a web developer everything relates back to websites and how they are built. I began wondering how the websites I built were for those who had disabilities. I knew I could use them just fine, but what about those who had poor vision? Those who had trouble moving a mouse? Could they still use the websites I built?

Luckily, I was headed to a WordCamp that weekend where Trisha Salas was going to give a talk on web accessibility

Trisha’s son has optic neuropathy which makes it hard to see much of what is on the internet without zooming in.

She showed several videos showing what her son has to deal with when using normal websites found across the internet. If you would like to view the videos you can find there here, here and here. These were definitely educational.

I realized then that I didn’t want my websites to be so difficult for anyone to use, no matter their disability.

As designers and developers we sometimes make it incredibly difficult for those who are disabled. By implementing small things we don’t normally even think about we can make our sites not impossible for a significant portion of our population.

So what are some of the easy things we can do right now with our sites to make them more usable? Below are eight things to check on your site to make it more accessible.

  1. Keyboard navigation – Can users navigate through your site by keyboard alone?
  2. Contrast – Is there an appropriate contrast between your font color and your background color?
  3. Font choice – Don’t use thin fonts, very tiny font sizes or fonts that are just generally hard to read.
  4. Headings – Use an appropriate heading structure so users can easily know what your main points are.
  5. Forms – Make sure each field is appropriately labeled. If there are error or confirmation messages make sure they can perceive them no matter how they are viewing your site.
  6. Images – Images must be labeled so users will know what is on the page.
  7. Media – Do NOT auto-play, auto-rotate, auto-anything. Users need to make the choice to have something happen on your site.
  8. New Windows/Tabs – Do not open new windows or tabs without first warning the user.

That’s just a few of the many things you can check on your site to ensure that it is user-friendly. To learn more you can view the slides from Trisha’s talk here. She also recommends reading A Web for Everyone and Accessibility Handbook to learn more.

Is there something I left out? Do you have a question or thought? Leave a comment below!

Share this Article


Reader Interactions

Leave A Reply


Sign up for our monthly newsletter and receive our free guide on successfully subcontracting to developers. Our newsletter will keep agencies up to date on the latest WordPress and SEO news that could impact their client’s websites.