Accessibility means making your website usable and understandable to people with disabilities. When you design for accessibility, you are following best practices for copy, color, navigation, layout, and functionality to ensure a consistent, approachable, and accessible experience for everyone who uses your site. 

There are many different accessibility resources to draw from, but the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 are the most current and internationally recognized standard. Companies like accessiBe, which offers a suite of accessibility tools and services, can also provide guidance and assistance. 

a man working on the mockup of his website on a whiteboard
a man working on the mockup of his website on a whiteboard

Why is accessibility important?

Accessibility is an important aspect of web design. It’s not just a legal requirement for companies, organizations, and government agencies—it’s also good business. Content that is accessible for people with disabilities also helps everyone else, and when you prioritize accessibility, you’re delivering to the widest audience possible.  

Tips for designing for accessibility

If you are looking to improve or maintain the accessibility of your website, the following tips are a great place to start. Remember, while designers play an important role, <strong>accessibility is ultimately the priority of everyone who works on your website</strong>, including writers, content strategists, and developers.  

Design for different types of accessibility

Your website should account for all of the possible accessibility challenges for your audience. This includes people with:

  • Visual conditions, who may need to use a screen reader.
  • Muscle and movement conditions, who may need assistive technologies to manage conventional navigation elements. 
  • Cognitive conditions, who may require additional directions and cues. 

Create an accessible color palette

Adhere to an appropriate contract (WCAG 2.1 recommends 4.5:1 for most uses), and avoid overly bright, garish, or clashing color schemes.

Optimize text and navigation

Make sure that all on-page copy is clean, clear, and direct, without any confusing cues that rely on visual elements. Text should also be visually broken up for easier scanning and reading. Navigation should be consistent and easy to understand, with the option to use a keyboard instead of a mouse.

Include alt-text and labels

Users who may require a screen reader will not be able to see any graphics, video, or audio files, so include alt-image text, captions, and transcripts so they can still enjoy the content. You should also add alt-text for hyperlinks, and labels for other interactive elements like buttons and forms.

Make use of accessibility tools

Accessibility tools can help you test and evaluate your web content so you can make corrections as you go. Many content management systems (CMS) offer built-in accessibility checks to keep you on track, but there are also numerous third-party software solutions you can implement as well. 

Designing for accessibility may seem like a challenge, but when you follow these common and easy best practices, you can make sure your website is improved for all users, whether disabled or not.