Reliance on the internet across the globe is undeniable. This is where people do their banking, find jobs, shop, communicate, learn and do many other things. It has become a large part of everyday life. Part of the reason for this is the high level of internet penetration across the globe, technology innovations, and acceptance by the majority. The internet has also broken ground for freelance workers.
According to statistics, the US freelance workforce is projected to reach 56.9% by 2027, making it almost half of the entire workforce. Most businesses depend on freelancers for short and long-term engagements. This workforce includes freelance web designers tasked with creating an online presence for businesses and corporations to the abled and those living with disabilities.
But first, why is creating an accessible web design so important?
It’s a Designer’s Fundamental Responsibility
Sometimes, accessibility web design is treated as a trend. It’s not. It’s a standard and the fundamental responsibility of every web designer. Freelance web designers should ensure that all users find their creations usable and enjoyable despite their disabilities. In the US, accessibility is governed by:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act
- The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – the global accessibility standard set of guidelines.
- Rehabilitations Act Sections 504 and 508
- The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
- The ICT Products and Services Accessibility Requirements -CN301549
These laws and guidelines target creating equality in the online space. Other countries also have various policies and regulations for accessibility designs.
When you are a freelance designer, it’s crucial to be aware of the laws of the land for whom you are building a website. However, the accessibility guidelines can be complex to understand, containing an immense amount of information and technical language. Instead of trying to understand each part, it’s recommended that you stay in touch with a website accessibility consultant to guide you as you work on the code.
Here are essential tips that you should have in mind in creating websites for your clients.
You’re Designing for Everyone
The first thing you need to keep in mind is the audience for the site you’re creating. Have everyone in mind, including the blind and those with other vision-related issues. Also design for those with cognitive impairments who get distressed by automatic videos, motor, and hearing impairments. In addition, you need to consider that you are designing for the young and old, casual and power users, who all need to have an excellent experience at the site.
The website needs to be compatible with assistive technology tools and cater to the multiple user needs. You should be guided by the accessibility guidelines, which may create constraints but shouldn’t hinder your creativity. Accessible designs are neither boring nor ugly. They only enhance creativity and make designs more inclusive.
ALT Tags for Images are Crucial
These tags are brief descriptions of images you should use by embedding them within the html code. While most users won’t see them, they are of utmost importance for those web visitors using screen readers. In addition, it is the way persons with vision impairments know what’s contained in the images on the site. These tags should be creative and straightforward yet accurate descriptions of the images.
But apart from being the alt tags helping the visually impaired and those with motor disabilities, it also helps with the websites’ SEO resulting in more web traffic and eventually conversions.
Avoid Describing Information With Color
There are many people globally who suffer from color blindness. Using color alone to describe or illustrate crucial information on the page will cause some visitors to miss the intended meaning and purpose. For instance, using a particular color to highlight an error in a form can be missed by some users.
Alternatives to this include underlining or bolding link. Error messages in forms should have symbols or icons accompanying them. Ensure that elements on the graphs don’t rely on color alone as well.
Ensure to Have Your Code Audited
As stated elsewhere in this article, it’s crucial to involve a web accessibility consultant to audit your code and ensure that the website is ADA compliant. ADA and websites are inseparable, and regardless of where you are working from, you should always keep this in mind.
Although it’s possible to audit a website yourself with the available online auditing tools, manual audits by reputable web accessibility consultants are recommended. You don’t want to miss any accessibility requirements that can put your client in legal trouble.
ADA and Websites
ADA and other set policies and guidelines for accessible web designs need to be a freelance web designer’s guide. Web design is no longer about creating beautiful and creative designs. It’s about interaction, inclusion, and accessibility as well. As a freelancer, you need to be aware of the accessibility web design guidelines required for your client’s website. Accessible web designs enhance a website’s value without necessarily compromising its appeal. Users end up getting a better experience no matter their ability levels or whether they require assistive technology tools.