7 Tips to Improve the Web for Vision Disabilities

Pull up your favorite website, close your eyes, and imagine trying to use it.  Yes, that is extreme, but users users with disabilities face serious challenges trying to use inaccessible websites.  Vision disabilities affect website users in different ways depending on the type and severity of the disability.  The good news is that we can make it significantly easier for users by following some accessibility guidelines.

There are two major forms of vision impairment:

  • Low-vision: these disabilities include reduced eyesight that cannot be corrected by glasses. Typically, low-vision users magnify their screens using screen magnifiers (e.g., ZoomText, MAGic). This means that they see only a portion of the screen, which makes it difficult to scan for content. They may completely miss content on the right-hand side of the screen (often the location of Search features). Low-vision users usually rely on the keyboard but may also use the mouse.  Sometimes they may also use screen readers (e.g., JAWS, WindowEyes).
  • Blindness: Few people are totally blind, but in general blind users cannot see screen text, colors, or images. They rely on the keyboard to navigate and screen reader applications like JAWS and WindowEyes to speak content and notify them when something happens on the screen.  These users sometimes use refreshable Braille displays.

In addition, color blindness affects a significant number of people. People who are color blind may have difficulty distinguishing red from green, yellow from blue, or sometimes any colors at all. On Windows, color-blind users often use high-contrast mode to reverse foreground and background colors, increase the default font and icon size, lower the screen resolution, and/or use the screen magnifier built into the operating system.

Tips to improve web accessibility

  1. Add text equivalents to all non-text elements such as images.
  2. Make sure all information is provided in text format.
  3. Ensure that all functions can be accessed using the keyboard only.
  4. Do not use color alone to convey information.
  5. Provide adequate color contrast between text and background.
  6. Label forms properly.
  7. Provide navigation methods such as headings, landmarks or skip links.

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