6 Quick Checks for Website Accessibility

In a few short minutes this blog will give you a clear idea of how inclusive your web pages really are for millions of people in the UK and across the world.

We all know that web accessibility is vital for many users, is a legal requirement, and also helps every user in this mobile-first world where everyone is ‘computing on the edge’. To that end, a better name for accessibility is ‘inclusive design’.

Here are a few simple checks to see how inclusive your pages are:

1. General appearance

Pages need to have a decent default text size, clear font and not be too cluttered. Within the default text and zoom settings you should check...

  • Are columns, text and controls separated by enough white space?
  • Is the default text generally easy to read or is it too small?
  • Is the font sans serif - ie, the one without twiddly tails and different width strokes that is easier to read?

2. Text resizing

It’s important that text can be easily resized. This is different from zooming into the page (where some of the page falls off the side of the screen).

If you're using Internet Explorer for Windows for example, in the menu bar click View and then Text Size and set it to Largest, alternatively on a Mac using Internet Explorer do Ctrl + the plus or minus sign, and in Safari on the Mac use Option and Command keys together with the plus or minus sign.

Did anything change? Did all text nicely resize? On many sites this doesn’t work as it should.

3. Accessible colours

Many people prefer a less contrasting background (such as beige) or need high-contrast white on black text.

First check if the site has a styleswitcher (typically three differently styled A letters at the top of the screen) to make changing colours easy. If it doesn’t then look at whether the site at least reflects the user’s preferred system colours.

In Windows there is a handy hotkey to check this - press left Shift + left Alt + PrtScn to invoke high contrast mode. If the site reflects user preferences, then it will show any preferred colour combination the user has set for their computer once these keys are pressed. You can deactivate high contrast mode with the same keystroke.

For some systems you’ll need to go into settings to change colours manually.

4. Keyboard accessibility

Many people with a vision or motor difficulty use the keyboard instead of the mouse.

Try tabbing through the entire page and see if you can always follow where the active link or button is. Then try filling out a form or two – especially with unusual controls such as a pop-up date picker. If these things are a struggle, your site is not accessible.

5. Images with text descriptions

It’s really important that blind users get a description of key images on a page. Hover your mouse over a photograph and see if the text that pops up (or sometimes is shown in the status bar at the very bottom of the browser) is a good summary of the image.

What you see - and what is shown in the picture on the left - is actually the ‘title’ given to the image in the site's Content Management System. The title is often the same as the alternative text or alt text.

If you don’t see anything then there might still be an alt text present, so you can try one of these options to find out:

  • Bring up the page on your mobile phone on a slow connection – you’ll first see the alternative text (if there is one) and then the image will load
  • Turn on speech on your phone (by triple-tapping the home button on an iPhone for example) and tap on the image to hear the alt text
  • In Internet Explorer you can go to Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Multimedia > Show pictures and temporarily turn pictures off to see if the alt text pops up instead of the removed images.

6. Accessibility info

It’s valuable to provide key information about the accessibility features of a site for people that need it. It also needs to be well signposted and clear. Look for an Accessibility link – it is usually located at the bottom of every page.

Can you see one anywhere? Is it a good size (at least the same size as most of the text on the page – definitely not small footer-sized text and ideally as big as some headings)?

Further tools for website accessibility

Related resources

Check out other relevant articles:

Infographic: The Growth of The Autonomous Car Market

A recent blog post by Robin Christopherson about the impact autonomous cars could have on the lives of disabled people prompted a lot of interest, including a great infographic sent to us by Daniel Dixon of GetOffRoad that illustrates the rapid growth in the autonomous car market.

A text-only version of this graphic is also available.

This infographic has a text version available using a link in the body of the article

AbilityNet shows how computers and tech can excel for physically disabled people

At least 53% of working age adults with an impairment or disability experience barriers to work, compared to 30% of the general population. But many don't realise that some simple support with technology can completely change things.

“Our job is to help people with such impairments overcome those barriers,” says Joanne Beacham, the former service delivery manager for AbilityNet. 

"Ergonomic equipment is probably one of the most important things we recommend for people with physical disabilities as well as dictation software. We get that 'wow' factor when we show someone something that will completely change things for them," she explains.

 

In particular, Joanne recommends Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software, which you can find here. "So, if someone has lower back pain and they can't sit for long periods at the computer, you can give them a wireless headset and Dragon gives them the freedom to move around while they dictate text or command and control what they want the computer to do."

Don't forget, My Computer My Way has loads of tips and tricks to make tech work better for you too.

For more info or to have an assessor visit you, check out www.abilitynet.org.uk/workplace.

WEBINAR Dementia and Digital Design, 23 February 2017

dementia image shoiwng leaves being blown from a head-shaped hedgeThe digital revolution means that more and more of us are using and familiar with a whole range of digital services, from online banking to personal messaging and online communications. However our ageing population means that conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer's are having an impact on the lives of more and more people. 

Webinar: Dementia and Digital Design

  • 12noon GMT, Thursday 23 February 2017

This webinar explores the impact memory impairment can have on the way we design and deliver digital services such as apps and websites. It will be suitable for anyone with an interest in how design digital services to meet the needs of vulnerable people, from developers and digital designers to business managers, charities and health professionals.

Register now

Sign up to join the webinar live on 23 February.

Not sure you can make it?

We record our webinars and provide a captioned recording and a copy of the slides within a week of the event. 

Register now and be told when the recording is available

EVENT: Implementing the Accessible Information Standard in a digital NHS,London, 28 February 2017

The Accessible Information Standard is a requirement for any provider of NHS informationMany disabled people find that communicating with large institutions like the NHS can be difficult, frustrating or at times impossible.  AbilityNet is hosting a workshop to consider the role that digital technology plays in the NHS Accessible Information Standard.

  • 11 am – 3 pm, Tuesday 28 February
  • British Computer Society (BCS)
  • 5 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HA
  • Sponsored by PanLogic

Published in July 2015 the Accessible Information Standard (AIS) became mandatory for all NHS and social care organisations including NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts and GP practices in July 2016.

NHS England is currently reviewing the implementation of the AIS. Ahead of the consultation, which closes on 10 March 2017, AbilityNet is bringing together patient groups, NHS practitioners and the digital accessibility community for a half-day, interactive event to:

  • Understand where digital accessibility fits within patient communications
  • Share the results of disabled user-testing on the technology used by GPs and the lessons learned
  • Learn first-hand from disabled people’s experiences and identify best practice for the design and delivery of digital communications that meet the AIS.

Register now

Numbers are strictly limited for this event so please use the booking form on the website to book now.

[Free Webinar] Virtual Reality, Disability and Inclusive Design

Google Cardboard is a low cost VR headset that helped kickstart interest in the technologyBuilding on Google's low cost Cardboard headsets, as well as big ticket names such as Oculus Rift and Microsoft's Hololens, Virtual Reality (VR) has quickly moved from geeky buzzword to mainstream technology. It is already widely used by estate agents, holiday companies and many other commercial applications - but what can it do for disabled people?

  • Free Webinar: Virtual Reality, Disability and Inclusive Design
  • 1pm, Thursday 26 January 2017
  • REGISTER NOW

Senior Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet, Raphael Clegg-Vinell, offers an introduction to VR and looks at some of the ways it could transform the lives of people with disabilities. It's already being used by people with visual impairments, strokes and dementia and could have life-changing possibilities for people with many other disabilities.

The webinar will be of interest to anyone with an interest in how technology can help people with disabilities, as well as anyone developing VR applications. It does not require any existing knowledge of VR and it will include an opportunity to ask questions.

Register Now

More about VR and disability

Forthcoming AbilityNet Webinars

Webinar Archive

How to get free expert advice on technology and disability

Twelve million people in the UK have some type of disability, from cerebral palsy or dyslexia to arthritis. Every week, AbilityNet deals with scores of queries from people who want to know how they can make the most of their smartphone, iPad or computer, or which assistive tech might work for them.


Alex Barker is our experienced advice and information officer and runs our free helpline. Via email, Facebook and Twitter, Alex can identify simple adjustments to computer systems, laptops and smartphones – and can also offer advice on which tech to choose. Alex himself does not have all his fingers and says that knowing how to use a computer in the right way for him, has transformed his life. 

Whatever the query, Alex often tells people to take a look My Computer My Way – this amazing free resource shows you how to make small adjustments to your computer, tablet or smartphone. It covers all the accessibility options in every mainstream computer system and can help with vision, hearing, physical and congnitive disabilities.

You can contact Alex on our free helpline on 0800 269 545 or email him at enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

How changing the settings on your iPad and iPhone can help people with tremors and other dexterity difficulties

The latest version of the software that drives iPads and iPhone (iOS10) offers significant improvements for people with tremors due to conditions such as Parkinsons, Cerebral Palsy or old age. These changes can be found in the accessibility settings and can help anyone with dexterity issues take their day to day computer usage to a whole new level.

One size definitely doesn’t fit all

Everyone’s wonderfully different. In this mobile-first world of extreme computing we all know how important inclusive design is for every single user. And settling for a vanilla experience on your device will waste a lot of the potential it has to be inclusive for you – especially ‘on the go’

Like many other people with disabilities, I have always been deeply touched and truly grateful for the work that Apple has put into ensuring that its devices and software are as accessible and inclusive as possible. If you’ve never been in the Accessibility settings of your iPhone then I’d strongly recommend taking a peek now.

Screenshot of Apple General Settings showing ACcessibility menu item

As a blind person I’m able to use my iPhone by turning on VoiceOver and a quick glance down the other accessibility settings show us that people with a wide range of vision, hearing, motor and reading difficulties are catered for very extensively.

Touch accommodations

New in iOS 10, there are now some incredibly powerful options that can be customised to make a smartphone even easier to use for people with a tremor or other dexterity difficulties due to Parkinsons, Cerebral Palsy or old age.

For this group of users it is often incredibly difficult to do a simple concise tap that is swift, on-target and is not interpreted as a series of taps or swiping gestures.

The first two settings in the touch accommodations section aim to resolve this first issue; where you go for a single tap and end up with many.

screenshot of apple accessibility settings menu showing Touch Accommodations menu item

Hold duration

The ‘hold duration’ is the length of time you must touch the screen before a touch is recognised and processed by the phone.

screenshot of Touch Accommodations menu settings showing hold duration options

Starting at 0.1s, here you can set the minimum time your fingertip needs to be touching the screen before a tap is sent. This will allow you to fine-tune the phone’s response so that tremulous butterfly-light taps aren’t constantly activating items or sending keystrokes from the on-screen keyboard. Only more definite and intentional touches are processed.

Ignore repeat

The partner setting to the hold duration option above is ‘Ignore repeat’. Here you can tell the phone to discount multiple taps in quick succession in favour of more deliberate taps that are more spaced out.

Set the minimum duration in which multiple touches are treated as a single touch. Starting at 0.1s you can increase this value until all but your initial tap is ignored.

Tap assistance

Often it is very hard for users with dexterity difficulties to ‘tap and go’ without dragging their finger across the glass. Try doing a swipe on your phone now using the smallest possible movement and you’ll see the problem; even a few millimetres will turn a tap into a swipe.

Enabling tap assistance will allow any single finger gesture simply to be treated as a tap.

There are two choices here; use either the initial or final touch location as the point of the tap. In other words, should the phone consider the starting or ending point of the swipe as the position on the screen where the single one-finger tap was made.

For some users the first place they put their finger might be closest to where they were intending to tap, whilst for others the fact that their finger is now resting on a surface makes it easier to slide it to where they want the tap to be, at which point they would lift it off to send the tap.

Leading the way to inclusion

There’s no doubt in my mind that Apple are continuing to show how accessibility, or inclusive design, can be done well. Whilst there are third-party solutions that do something similar to the above, Apple have done the research and development required to build it right into the operating system in iOS 10.

With a few exceptions (I’m looking at you; wearables running AndroidWear - and you; almost every smart TV) we’re living in a time where the majority of devices and operating systems are benefiting from similar levels of investment and commitment

Things are certainly headed in the right direction. In the coming years we should be optimistic about an ever-greater choice of inclusive products. We’re touching the future and, personally, I think it feels good.

Useful links

  • Apple’s excellent accessibility page – www.apple.com/accessibility
  • My Computer My Way - AbilityNet's free guide the accessibility settings in every laptop, desktop and computer

How DSA can help students achieve goals: Maddie and James get transformational tech support from AbilityNet for anxiety and dyslexia

For students struggling with a disability, learning difficult or anxiety, reaching the end of a university course can feel impossible without help.

AbilityNet has a team of assessors around the country working with university students who are eligible for DSA (Disabled Student's Allowance). Assessors recommend specific tech for a student, depending on the circumstances and needs and it can truly transform their university experience.

App-cessibility: Top 3 apps to make your tech more accessible for you

 

AbilityNet's work is all about transforming lives for disabled and older people. AbilityNet DSA assessor Abbie Osborne spends a lot of time researching the best and most useful adaptive apps for students. Abbie says: "Adaptive apps are very essential for the world we live in. It's important for people with a disability to be more on a level playing and have independence. Here are my top three adaptive apps: 

RogerVoice - click here to go to the app
This is great app for people who have a hearing impairment. With it you can make a phone call and speak to another other person verbally, but when that person responds, their reply will be displayed as text message for ease.

DyslexiaKey - click here to go to the app
I love this because it changes the font on a phone keyboard to make it clearer and also switches from a standard QWERTY keyboard to a sequential ABC alphabetical one, which works better for dyslexic people.

BeMyEyes - click here to go to the app
This app is excellent to help blind people and those with sight loss to be more independent. It can be very useful, for example, if the person is at home and is unsure of an expiry date on a food item - they can request help through the app and will be video-linked to a volunteer who can read through their camera phone. "

Check out our guide to the top 10 accessible apps.