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Published: 17 May 2024

17 May 2024

Building Websites for Everyone: Why Accessibility First Matters

The internet connects people across the globe. It's a vast library of information, a platform for commerce, and a place for connection. But what if this digital world isn't accessible to everyone?

Websites are the building blocks of the internet, and if they aren't built with accessibility in mind, they leave a significant portion of the population behind. Here's why "Accessibility First" should be the guiding principle for web development.


What is Accessibility?

Website accessibility means designing and developing websites that can be used by everyone, regardless of their abilities. This includes people with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive disabilities.

Visual Impairments

People who are blind or have low vision rely on assistive technologies like screen readers, which convert text on the screen to speech. 

For these users, inaccessible websites create a major barrier to accessing information. Accessible websites use proper coding practices and implement clear, descriptive alt text for images. 

Alt text tells the screen reader what the image is about, ensuring users don't miss out on crucial visual content.

It’s also important to use accessible fonts to make sure your website visitors have no problem reading your site content. 

Auditory Impairments

Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals process information differently. For them, inaccessible websites can mean missing out on important audio content like videos or podcasts. Websites practicing accessibility incorporate captions for videos and transcripts for audio content. This allows deaf and hard-of-hearing users to stay informed and engaged.

Motor Impairments

People with limited mobility might use special keyboards, joysticks, or voice commands to navigate websites. Inaccessible websites can make these navigation methods difficult or even impossible. Accessible web design ensures that all website functions can be accessed and used with these assistive technologies. This empowers users with motor impairments to interact with the website independently.

Cognitive Disabilities

Individuals with cognitive disabilities may struggle with complex layouts, overwhelming amounts of information, or unclear instructions. Inaccessible websites can cause frustration and confusion for these users. Websites built with accessibility in mind prioritize clear navigation, simple language, and a predictable website structure. This makes the website easier to understand and navigate for users with cognitive disabilities.

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The Benefits of Accessibility First

There are many compelling reasons to prioritize accessibility from the very beginning of website development.

  • It's the Right Thing to Do: Accessibility isn't a checkbox; it's about inclusion. Everyone deserves equal access to information and opportunities online.

  • It Reaches a Wider Audience: By following accessibility guidelines, your website opens its doors to a much larger user base, increasing potential customers and engagement.

  • It Improves SEO: Search engines favor websites that are well-coded and user-friendly. Accessible websites often meet these criteria, potentially boosting your search ranking.

  • It Lowers Costs: Fixing accessibility issues after a website is launched can be expensive and time-consuming. Building with accessibility in mind from the start saves resources in the long run.

  • It Creates a Better User Experience: Accessibility benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Clear navigation, good color contrast, and keyboard accessibilitywhich are key elements of effective UX design services, make the website easier to use for all visitors.


Putting Accessibility First into Practice

So, how can you translate the "Accessibility First" approach into action? Here are some practical steps to get you started:


Involve Users with Disabilities in the Design Process

Accessibility isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Involving users with disabilities throughout the development process provides invaluable insights. Rapid prototyping allows you to identify potential barriers firsthand and ensure your website meets the specific needs of this diverse audience.

For example, working with people who use screen readers can help you identify areas where the screen reader struggles to navigate the website or convey information effectively. This feedback helps you refine your design and coding to ensure a smooth experience for users who rely on assistive technologies.


Use Clear and Simple Language for Everyone

Not everyone who visits your website will be a technical expert. Using clear and concise language benefits everyone, not just those with cognitive disabilities.

Avoid jargon and technical terms that might confuse some readers. Opt for short sentences and a straightforward writing style that's easy to understand. Imagine you're explaining your website to someone unfamiliar with the topic. This approach makes your website more user-friendly and ensures everyone can grasp the information you're presenting.


Prioritize Keyboard Navigation for Assistive Technologies

For users with motor impairments or those who rely on screen readers, navigating a website solely with a mouse can be challenging. Ensuring your website is fully keyboard accessible is crucial for an inclusive user experience.

This means all interactive elements, like menus, buttons, and forms, can be accessed and used with just the keyboard. The tab key should follow a logical order, allowing users to navigate through the website efficiently without needing a mouse. By prioritizing keyboard accessibility, you empower users with motor limitations to interact with your website independently.


Ensure High Color Contrast for Readability

Color can be a powerful design tool, but it's important to use color contrast effectively. For people with low vision, text with poor color contrast can be difficult or even impossible to read.

Use a color contrast checker to ensure there's a sufficient contrast between text and background colors. This is especially important for body text, buttons, and form design. Following color contrast guidelines ensures your website is readable for everyone, regardless of their visual abilities.


Provide Descriptive Alt Text for Images

Images can enhance your website's visual appeal and convey information in a compelling way - these can easily be created using an AI image generator. But for visually impaired users who rely on screen readers, these images are meaningless without context.

Adding alt text descriptions to your images bridges this gap. Alt text is a brief description of the image's content, conveyed by the screen reader to the user. When crafting alt text, be clear and concise, but also informative. Describe the image's subject matter and any important details it conveys. Effective alt text ensures visually impaired users don't miss out on valuable information presented through images.


Use Clear and Descriptive Link Text

Links should be easy to understand for everyone. Don't rely solely on icons or generic phrases like "click here." The text of the link should clearly describe the destination of the link and what the user can expect to find when they click on it.

For example, instead of a link that says "Click here for more information," use a phrase like "Learn more about our services" This makes it easier for users to understand where the link leads and helps them decide whether to click on it. Clear and descriptive link text improves website navigation for everyone.

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Accessibility Champions: Tools and Resources at Your Fingertips

Making your website accessible doesn't have to feel overwhelming. There are many free and easy-to-use resources available to help you on your journey! Here are a few accessibility champions to add to your toolkit:

  • WebAIM WAVE Evaluation Tool: This free online tool allows you to quickly check your webpages for accessibility issues. Simply enter your website URL and WAVE will crawl the page, highlighting potential problems and offering suggestions for improvement.

  • WCAG Checklist: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of international standards for web accessibility. The WCAG checklist provides a roadmap for ensuring your website meets these guidelines, making it easier to navigate for users with disabilities.

  • Accessibility Testers with Disabilities: Consider involving people with disabilities in your testing process. Many organizations offer usability testing services with testers who have a variety of impairments. This firsthand feedback can be invaluable in identifying and resolving accessibility barriers.

  • Accessibility Plugins and Extensions: Several browser extensions and website plugins can help you improve accessibility. These tools can automatically add alt text to images, check color contrast, andeven capture leads with click-to-call software.

Remember, accessibility is an ongoing process. As your website grows and evolves, revisit these resources and conduct regular checks to ensure it remains accessible to everyone.



Building an accessible website isn't just about following guidelines or checking boxes. It's about creating a welcoming and inclusive digital space for everyone. By adopting an "Accessibility First" approach, you create a website that's not only usable but also ethical, responsible, and ultimately, better for everyone.

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