How To Make Your Therapist Website Accessible And Why It Matters
Is your therapist website accessible? Have you considered making improvements to ease use for visitors with a disability or low literacy? Have you embraced Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, viewing “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities as an opportunity to provide disability-friendly content?
Or maybe you didn’t realize that website accessibility is even a thing? Many people don’t; including most website designers, leading to poorly accessible sites.
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Luckily, creating an accessible website doesn’t need to be difficult. And the benefits are vast.
A focus on ease of use boosts visitor experience, enabling you to create deeper connections by building trust, expanding your impact, growing your practice, and improving your branding. Simply put, accessibility is important.
This brings us to several important questions:
- What is website accessibility?
- What are accessible website standards?
- How can you sharpen a current or build a new site?
- How can you secure a beautiful, done-for-you site built with a focus on inclusiveness?
Let’s take a look!
What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to websites, web tools, and technologies that are specifically designed so that people with disabilities can use them.
A lack of accessibility raises barriers. Barriers that can make it challenging (even impossible) to access the net or elements of it, including a poorly planned website.
Why is website accessibility important from a brand perception and user experience perspective?
Firstly, we believe incorporating inclusivity in and of itself is important. Much of life is now fused with the world wide web. People with disabilities should have equal access to this ubiquitous technology and the benefits it delivers.
Secondly, inclusivity elevates brand perception. Taking steps to promote equal access demonstrates that you care. That you recognize the importance of fairness. That you are actively involved in improving the lives of all people. This is a powerful combination that leads to a perception of an ethical, engaged business. Perception — as well as action — matters.
Accessible website standards
Depending on the country in which you live and practice, there may or may not be any enforceable accessibility laws.
Tip: SearchEngineJournal gives a run down on the history and state of play in the USA.
However, there is counsel in the form of guidelines.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) spell out a variety of recommendations that, when implemented, make a site accessible. This guidance provides:
Accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations; but will not address every user need for people with these disabilities.
The WCAG guidelines include recommendations like:
- An equivalent text alternative should be provided for non-text content (like video and audio)
- Text content which is accompanied by an audio alternative
- Various CAPTCHA options (e.g. audio, visual, and picture-based)
- The use of captions for live and prerecorded audio and video content
- Portrait and landscape viewing options
- Separation of the foreground and the background to make content easier to discern
- Audio that runs for over three seconds should be accompanied by a pause or stop option, or the ability to independently alter the volume
- Larger and unjustified text
- Enhanced contrast
- 1 1/2-times line spacing within paragraphs
- 1 1/2-times the line spacing for paragraph spacing
- All functionality should be operable from a keyboard
- Limit flashing lights
To find out more, read the article, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.
Once you know what to do — which changes will support people with disabilities — the next step is to take action.
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How to make a website accessible
Berkley Web Access outlines the top ten tips for making your website accessible as the below:
- Use a Content Management System (CMS) that supports accessibility
- Use headings to structure content (Use <h1> for the primary title of the page. Avoid using an <h1> for anything other than the title of the website and the title of individual pages, but do not skip heading levels (e.g., go from an <h1> to an <h3>), as screen reader users will wonder if content is missing.)
- Include alt text for images
- Create links with unique, specific names (Try not to say: “Click here to read about our company.” Instead, say: “To learn more about our company, read About Us.”)
- Use color intentionally
- Design forms for accessibility
- Use tables for tabular data, not layout
- Make sure all content is logically accessible via keyboard only
- Use ARIA roles and landmarks when needed
- Make dynamic content accessible
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When wondering how to build an accessible website, the Berkley Web Access guidelines provide a roadmap. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility (BOIA) also breaks this down further to make change easier.
They describe the four guiding principles in the acronym, POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.
As its name suggests, perceivable means that content must be perceptible for a range of abilities. As the BOIA puts it, “It can’t be invisible to all their senses.”
How to make a website accessible with perceptibility in mind:
- Use text alternatives for non-text content
- Add captions for audiovisual presentations
- Separate the background and the foreground so content is easily distinguishable
- Present the same material in a variety of ways
All functional elements, including navigation, should be operable; the interface must only include interactions that a user can execute.
How to make a website accessible with operability in mind:
- Enable full functionality with a keyboard and other technology
- Include a number of navigation options
- Avoid content that is known to trigger seizures or other physical reactions
- Ensure your visitors have sufficient time to consume your content
The website should be understandable in terms of both your content and how it is operated.
How to make a website accessible with understanding in mind:
- Create content that is easy to comprehend. Think larger text (or the ability to increase font size), alt text for images, easy-to-read font choice, high-resolution pictures, and shorter, simpler phrases
- Set your site up for compatibility with screen readers (assistive technology that translates written and image-based content into speech or braille)
- Ensure your site acts in predictable ways
Tip: Readability is foundational for accessibility. It’s also crucial for search engine optimization (SEO). Our article, What Website Readability Means and Why It’s Important for SEO, explores why readability is so important from an SEO perspective.
Content must be sturdy enough to be reliably interpreted.
How to make a website accessible with robustness in mind:
- Allow assistive technologies (including screen readers) to function correctly on your site
There are manual changes you can make in your back office, like resetting your font size. A range of apps can also be installed on your site to enhance function.
Tip: Sometimes uploading a new app can interfere with current plugins. This may impact your site’s appearance and function.
By implementing these changes, you can sharpen or build a website with accessibility in mind…
Not only does this boost user experience, you may also protect yourself from negative legal consequences.
How can accessible design protect you from potential ADA compliance issues?
As SearchEngineJournal pointed out in the article above, there are inconsistencies in the enforcement of ADA compliance. However, companies are being sued for failure to provide accessibility. One would expect lawsuits in this area to continue — and grow — in the future.
Creating a website that embraces the ADA is legally responsible. It’s also good for business and, we believe, the right thing to do.
Want the beautiful, accessible therapist website you deserve? Then you’re in the perfect place.
Brighter Vision is the ultimate marketing package for therapists, centered around the best therapist website you’ve ever had. Fill out the form below to learn more about our team of professionals who can’t wait to help your practice grow like never before 🙂