Online Accessibility for Small Businesses
To be accessible online means having a website or online space that is available regardless of the user's age, abilities, device, or situational limitations. Some accessibility barriers are apparent, but sometimes we are either too busy-minded or naive to understand all the limitations that our website could have to someone that has a different perspective than the one that we have experienced.
You might review your website at full brightness and with your prescription glasses on while sitting at a full-screen laptop with high-speed internet and think to yourself, “it looks great!”. But this isn’t the universal experience and it’s important to understand all the ways we can adjust our online spaces to be inclusive for everyone. Your website should be comprehensive for all people and cater to a diverse range of devices, skills, situations, and hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities.
Consider Situational Accessibility
Situational limitations are when the viewer is unable to attain the information from your website based on the external situation. If they are in a place that they cannot play audio and your website or content requires audio to be fully understood then they are left out and will quickly move on. Your viewers might be somewhere that has low bandwidth or slow internet connection, and if your website is packed with sexy videos that take a long time to load then it won’t be a very sexy experience for them when there is no information beyond the videos that won’t load.
Format for a Variety of Devices
More and more websites are viewed through a mobile device but many online spaces are only designed for the desktop or laptop experience. If you’ve ever landed on a mobile version of a website that was a chaotic mess or didn’t load properly then you know it's a pretty quick way to lose an interested customer. Check your website or online store on multiple devices for mobile use so that no matter what device your viewer is on they can still access the information they need.
Cater to any level of digital skills
We often take advantage of the fact that we can navigate easily through a website or menu system online, but if you’ve ever watched over the shoulder of an older or less experienced person as they try to find the button on the screen that is so clearly in the bottom right... you might have digital privilege. The things that may seem obvious to you are not always common knowledge to someone older or less experienced with the internet. We want to create a user experience that doesn’t require any brainpower to navigate so that they can focus on your products or services, and not on how to find the information that they need.
Be mindful of hearing impairment
Some users have a reduced ability to hear and important information should not be delivered exclusively through auditory channels without the use of subtitles. There are a variety of different types of hearing impairments that affect people of all ages. Having adjustable volume that can be increased may help someone with conductive hearing loss but using closed captions or transcribing your audio is a better way to guarantee that your material is accessible.
Consider Neurological and Cognitive Disabilities
Many conditions can affect a person’s cognitive abilities of perception, memory, language, attention, problem-solving, and comprehension. Your customers and viewers with developmental disabilities; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dementia, dyslexia, and other conditions will benefit from an online space that is free of unnecessary distractions, has clearly laid out information and provides information in more than one way (such as text and video instructions.)
Be aware of Photosensitive Seizures
Conditions such as epilepsy can cause seizures that are often triggered by flashing lights. When creating your flashy new popup or sales promotion, don’t get carried away with flashing or quickly changing images. Our brains need at least two seconds to absorb an image properly so make sure your videos are intentionally edited.
Provide options for Physical Motor Skills/Physical Disabilities
Some users may have difficulty moving parts of their bodies, including making the precise movements needed to use a mouse. Keyboard navigation is used by many people and should be considered and tested to ensure all parts of your website are accessible using only your keyboard. Tasks that have a limited time to complete are also another potential barrier for someone who has a mobility disability.
Be accessible for Visual Impairments
Many people with visual impairments use a text reader to collect information online. If your website is full of unnecessary information or misleading links, the experience will be jarring and unproductive for someone trying to navigate based on the text on the screen. Users with a visual impairment also include the partial or total inability to perceive colour contrasts and choosing your fonts and colours for your text is an important part of being inclusive to all persons.
Don't forget your social media platforms
Your social media platforms should be as accessible as your website and other platforms. It's simple to use Alt Text for your images, this feature is available when you are editing a post on Instagram for example, and providing a written description allows a person without sign or using a reader to access your content as well. Similarly, try to add captions to your videos on social media (like stories) so that people with hearing difficulty or with situational limitations like not being able to play audio can engage in your messaging.