Building a website that is accessible for as many users as possible means providing and supporting the tools that blind and visually-impaired users need to access a site’s content easily. Visually-impaired users utilize incredible assistive technology to access the web and, like any other user, have an expectation to be able to readily consume any web content.
As web designers and developers, RSM has both the experience and technology to make your website ready for your visually-impaired users. RSM, by default, develops EVERY website with the highest care to make sure sites are compatible with assistive technologies, and offers additional technology meant to augment that base level.
Understanding how the visually-impaired access the internet is crucial for business owners and web designers who want to both target their consumer audience but also better serve the communities where they operate. First know that the term “visual impairment” covers a wide range of conditions from low vision to partial and total blindness. Because of the diverse nature of visual impairments, there are many assistive technologies available. RSM Marketing makes navigating websites more user-friendly by taking additional steps to ensure web content is compatible with assistive technologies.
Screen readers convert a website’s text content to speech (or braille if enabled). The text-to-speech interface can read emails, documents, search engine results, and more. It can help navigate web pages and all of their elements, including buttons, links, forms, and other types of online text – like PDFs if formatted properly.
Apart from translating the text into voice or braille, the screen reader software can also take commands. Users can adjust the reader’s speed, follow links, skip headings, make text searches, and record frequently used web links.
A disadvantage of screen readers is they cannot handle pictures well, which is a real issue if image content has embedded text. Websites with too many ads or pop-ups can also ruin the experience of using a screen reader.
Refreshable Braille Display
A refreshable braille display is a hardware device with metal pins that produce ‘paperless braille’ characters to translate on-screen text into braille. The device essentially imitates the experience of reading a braille book. It conveys the exact spellings, formatting, and overall layout in a straightforward manner.
Refreshable braille displays can be preferred over screen readers depending on the environment in which the user is browsing. Using headphones with a screen reader is essential in classrooms, libraries or other crowded venues.
AI-Based Speech Recognition Software
Speech recognition software allows the user to voice commands to control their browsing experience. Online, it can search, navigate, open and close a webpages, and interact with websites in various ways. Beyond the web, the software can open and close programs, schedule meetings, set an alarm, and so much more.
Designing Your Website for Accessibility
There are a few primary design consideration to make a website more accessible.
- Commit to using clear, unique text-based tags on buttons and icons to make them readable.
- Avoid excessive ads and make sure they are identified as such.
- Pop-ups are an annoyance for any user, and provide an especially poor experience for the visually impaired.
- Add alt-text, caption and descriptions to web images so screen readers can describe them to visitors.
- Utilize color combinations with enough contrast.
- TEST. TEST. TEST.
Website Adaptive Technologies
Don’t just rely solely on web design and development to improve the user experience. RSM can include the following on-screen technologies that are hidden away from sighted users and easily activated, on-demand. Activated, the user can use one or a combination of all these accommodations:
- Adjust the font size
- Change the font family
- Adjust line height
- Increase letter spacing
- Adjust the color contrast
- View in dark mode
- Eliminate flashing or rapidly moving content
- Highlighted focus areas
- Accept keyboard input for navigation
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