<strong>Web Accessibility: Best Practices</strong>


You know the old adage that real estate is a numbers game?

Well, that got me thinking about numbers. And more specifically, some of the stats around people with disabilities and web accessibility. For example:

  • In the United States, one in four adults lives with some kind of disability.
  • The median income for an employed person with a disability is roughly the same as the national average.
  • Every year, around 5% of working Americans experience a short-term disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy.
  • 97% of the internet is inaccessible to people with disabilities.

What do these numbers tell us? When it comes to buying and selling homes, people with disabilities should not be considered an edge case. But more often than not, they’re let down by websites and apps that make it difficult to browse homes or fill out contact forms.

In this post, I discuss the importance of web accessibility, explain some of the laws you need to know, and share tips on how you can make your website accessible to every visitor.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to a set of design practices that are intended to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

In simple terms, that means every visitor should be able to accomplish key tasks — like browsing a website or filling out a contact form — in a reasonable amount of time and without exerting extra effort.

Why Does Web Accessibility Matter?

As I mentioned earlier, one in four adults in the United States lives with some type of disability. That’s more than 61 million people who might struggle to interact with your website if you don’t design it with accessibility in mind.

These disabilities are typically grouped into four categories, although it’s important to note that people can have multiple disabilities:

  • Visual impairments, including blindness and low vision.
  • Hearing impairments, including Deafness and hearing loss.
  • Motor impairments, including paralysis, arthritis, and loss of limb.
  • Cognitive impairments, including autism, memory impairment, and traumatic brain injuries.

Many of these disabilities can impact how someone perceives, understands, and navigates the internet. And when they have to overcome accessibility barriers, it can make even simple tasks frustrating or outright impossible.

It’s also important to remember that not every disability is permanent. Plenty of people deal with situational or temporary disabilities, whether it’s trying to watch a video in a noisy public space or being unable to use their dominant hand due to a repetitive stress injury.

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<strong>Remember: It's the Law</strong>

Remember: Web Accessibility Is Also the Law

Web accessibility isn’t just the right thing to do, or a way to reach more customers. It’s also the law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life. Although the ADA does not specifically mention web accessibility, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has regularly stated that websites qualify as “places of public accommodation.”

In March 2022, the DOJ published new guidance reiterating its position that web accessibility is a requirement under the ADA and recommending that organizations follow accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Over the last few years, there has been a record number of web accessibility lawsuits. More companies are receiving demand letters or being taken to court over alleged violations under the ADA.

Three Tips to Make Your Website More Accessible

1. Paint a Clear Picture of Every Image

Alt text is a written description of an image that screen readers can read out loud — or convert to Braille — for people with visual impairments, sensory processing disorders, or learning disorders.

Done right, alt text can paint a complete picture of a website for people who cannot perceive images visually.

Unfortunately, many designers and content creators forget to provide alt text. Or they write something so non-descriptive — like an image of a house that is simply labeled “house.jpg” — it might as well not be there.

Not sure how to write alt text? Typically, I tell people to write alt text like they’re describing a picture over the phone to a friend. What are the key details you’d want to include to help them paint a clear picture in their mind?

For realtors, however, I have another example. Imagine that you’re showing a home to a client. When you walked into the living room, you wouldn’t just say, “and here’s the living room.” You’d call out all of the special features and details that made it unique, whether it was high ceilings, original woodwork, or plenty of natural light.

If you’re struggling to write alt text for your images, just pretend you’re showing a home. Focus on the important details, and everyone will be able to enjoy and understand your images.

2. Keep Your Aging Clients In Mind

According to a recent report by NAR, the share of first-time home buyers dropped to a record low in 2022. At the same time, the age of the typical first-time buyer climbed to a record high of 36 years — and the typical buyer’s age climbed to 59 years.

What does that mean for your business? Your average client is likely getting older — and that makes it even more important to deliver a website that’s accessible.

Here’s the good news: The best practices of accessible design tend to overlap with general design best practices, especially when it comes to font and color choices that work for everyone.

Take your website’s color contrast, for example. WCAG Success Criterion 1.4.3: Contrast (Minimum) recommends a contrast ratio of at least 4.5 to 1 between the text and its background. This helps ensure that people with moderately low vision can still read the content of a page. Considering that visual acuity typically starts to decline by the time people turn 70, this is especially important for any business that caters to older clients.

Font size is also an important consideration. The best practice is to set a minimum font size for your website, but you can also use a solution like AudioEye’s Virtual Toolkit to give visitors the ability to adjust the size of text on screen without having to worry about words overlapping or getting cut off.

3. Make Sure Your Documents Are Accessible

It’s important to remember that accessibility shouldn’t stop once a client finds your website or fills out a form. If there’s any sort of document they need to sign, you want to make sure that you choose a solution that’s accessible, like DocuSign.

DocuSign has plenty of built-in tools — including an Accessibility Checker — to help you optimize any document for assistive technology, such as screen readers.

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<strong><em>About the author:</em></strong>

Alisa Smith, Accessibility Evangelist at AudioEye, CPACC Alisa Smith is a veteran accessibility advocate with a 20-year technology career working in design, development, and QA in the digital marketplace, automotive, and financial services industries. As AudioEye's Accessibility Evangelist, Smith helps businesses create inclusive experiences.

Premium Website now includes AudioEye, an accessibility solution to help keep your website compliant with accessibility laws and regulations.