Oliver Lewis, a consultant at Best Website Accessibility, runs through the most common issues users face
Guest Post: A guide on how to make your travel website accessible for all
Oliver Lewis, a website accessibility consultant at Best Website Accessibility, offers this guide on how travel firms can benefit from making sure their sites are not discriminatory
The travel industry is finding things very difficult at this moment and having a website that can be used by everyone can only help.
Every website owner wants to get as many visitors on their site to increase profits but most website owners don’t know their websites aren’t accessible to disabled users.
According to best website accessibility, over 97% of websites are not accessible to disabled users.
This means only 3% of the internet can be used by people with disabilities. Not only does this cause frustration, it’s discriminatory and it loses businesses billions a year.
Fortunately, making a website accessible isn’t too hard when you know what to look out for so we will take a look at the most common accessibility issues and how you can solve them.
At the end of the article, you will have enough information to go to your website and fix any issues that you may have.
What exactly is website accessibility?
In an ideal world, everyone should be able to go onto a computer and access any website that they would like to.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities have additional needs which make most websites impossible to use.
If you are a business owner and you don’t realise website accessibility issues are a problem, here is a quick rundown of the most common issues a user may face:
- Auditory impairments where the user has limited hearing or none at all. This can be a problem with companies that use explainer videos and video content in general without captions;
- Visual impairments where the user may have trouble reading your website because of contrast issues or they may not be able to see at all;
- Mobility impairments where the user can’t use a mouse and your website isn’t set up to use a keyboard for navigation.
How to make your website accessible
Now you know some of the main issues that affect a disabled user you can start to design or implement changes into your website to fix any issues you may have.
1) Make your website keyboard friendly
As mentioned above users with mobility issues won’t be able to use a mouse to navigate a website.
Instead, they will use assistive technologies such as mouth sticks, head wands and the keyboard.
These assistive technologies are great but they are limited especially when a website hasn’t been designed with accessibility in mind.
A complex navigation system for example is impossible to navigate when using a keyboard as they are often hidden and only show when a user hovers over them with a mouse.
A keyboard user will generally use the TAB key to move around a site and if you have too many links on a site or you haven’t coded it to show what link the users are currently on then the site becomes too hard to use.
Go to your website and check if you have this issue, don’t use your mouse when you land on it, just click the TAB key and see if it’s difficult to get to the information that you need.
If you find it difficult to move around your website you can take a look at this guide by WebAim on keyboard accessibility, if the information in the article is difficult to understand, forward it to your developer and they can help.
2) Don’t hide content
Hidden content isn’t only bad for the search engines but it’s bad for your users too.
Disabled users will use assistive technologies such as screen readers which will scan a website out and read the content back to them.
By hiding your content in this way a person with visual impairments won’t be able to access it.
3) Make your navigation skippable
Not only should your website’s navigation be easy to use but it should be skippable too.
If a visitor is using the TAB key to jump around the information on your website, having to go through the navigation is time-consuming.
If you make your navigation skippable a user can get to the content they want to see quicker.
This is done by adding code to your existing website known as Aria landmarks.
Aria landmarks can be used to highlight sections on your website such as the content on a page so a user can directly jump to it.
Aria landmarks can be used in many different ways and to go on about all of them would take another article, but if you would like to see how Aria landmarks can be used to improve your website you can check out this guide by W3.org.
4) Choose the colours of your website carefully
Colour can be used to improve the conversion rates of websites, but it also plays a huge role in how a user can see the text on a website.
Users with visual impairments may not be able to see the content on your website if your colours are too similar to each other.
A dark background with dark text is difficult to see and so is a light background with a light font, what you will want to do is match colours that contrast well with each other.
Getting your colours on your website is very important as 1 in 12 men in the UK will suffer from some form of visual impairment whereas 1 in 200 women will have the same problem.
The UK government website has a good guide on colour contrast which you can use to improve the accessibility of your website.
5) Don’t spam your ALT text
As a business owner, you may not know what an ALT text is, but for every image on the internet, you can assign it an ALT text which describes what that image shows.
This is used by screen readers which can then read this back to the user.
However, marketers have used this ALT text to add keywords so that your website shows up higher on the search engines.
For example, you could own a travel website that specialises in holidays to the Maldives.
A keyword you may want to show up on the search engines, in this case, could be “cheap holidays to the Maldives”.
You may have that page developed and have content on there talking about the best deals that someone can have.
However, in your images, your marketing company would have put the keywords in the ALT text of “cheap holidays to the Maldives” as it helps with showing up for that keyword.
This doesn’t help disabled users though as every image on that page will be a variation of that keyword, which is frustrating as the disabled user now has no idea what the image is showing and they have to listen to the same keyword over and over as they scroll down the page.
With your ALT tags, you should describe what the image shows. If the image is of a beach in the Maldives then describe the beach that is shown in the picture.
A good example of an ALT text in this instance would be “an image of people on the Kanura beach in the Maldives.”
When looking for beaches in the Maldives to make the point above I came across a website that was showing an image of Kanura beach, and their ALT text was “first slide”.
To a person with no visual impairments we can tell that it’s a slide show, but to a person with visual impairments, it gives no context into what the slideshow is showing.
6) Use subtitles on your video
Users with auditory impairments won’t be able to watch any explainer videos or travel guides if you don’t include subtitles on your videos.
Sure they can watch the images but how much information can you take from a video if you can’t hear what is being said.
There are many companies out there that can add subtitles to your videos and a simple Google search will bring them up.
Subtitles are not only a great addition to disabled users but they’re also used by others when they can’t play sound such as when commuting.
Another option with videos is to transcribe them into text content, not only does this give your website visitors a different way of consuming your content but it also gives your website a better opportunity of being found by the search engines which can bring more customers to your business.
Options for non-developers
Hiring a developer that has a background in website accessibility is going to give you the best way of improving the accessibility of your travel website but not everyone can afford to spend the money required to retrofit an old website.
If you would like to make your website accessible but don’t have a large budget or technical knowledge to do it yourself then you will be glad to know there are third-party tools out there that can be used to scan your website and make the changes needed very quickly.
If you would like to learn more about these solutions you can visit the following websites:
The internet should be accessible to all but the majority isn’t which costs billions each year.
You now know some of the most common issues when it comes to website accessibility and how to fix them either through coding or a third-party solution.