Making your website more accessible for users with SEND
Tim Berners Lee, the director of W3C and inventor of the World Wide Web said:
The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect
This is very much the case; making your website accessible to everyone is a fundamental part of web design.
Web accessibility means that websites and/ or applications are designed so that anyone can access them, regardless of whether they have a disability or not.
What are the principles of web accessibility?
The website is able to be navigated using a variety of senses such as sight, hearing or touch.
The website is able to be used with a keyboard, a mouse or when using assistive technologies.
The website is user-friendly and the information is easy to digest.
The website works across different browsers and search engines as well as being optimized for different devices and older technologies.
Different types of SEND and how accessible materials help them
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it is a behavioral disorder. Someone with ADHD has differences in their brain development and activity that affect their attention, the ability to sit still and their self-control.
Making your website accessible for someone with ADHD is important for many reasons. Approximately 1.5 million adults have ADHD in the UK alone, therefore if you do not include the needs of those who have ADHD, you run the risk of missing out on a huge potential customer base if they cannot access your information.
Making your website more accessible to people with ADHD would include writing clear and concise content that delivers the desired message in few words, so the user can decide whether or not they want to continue on your site.
You could also take a ‘less is more’ approach to designing your website. By decreasing the number of distractions on your site, the user is less likely to exit as they only have to focus on small pieces of information at a time.
Autism can be defined as ‘a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and related to other people, and how they experience the world around them’ – National Autistic Society.
There are around 700,000 people on the autistic spectrum in the UK. Autism is a hidden disability and can affect anyone.
Making your website accessible to autistic people would mean considering their needs; they often have heightened sensory awareness so having busy pages filled with content could be overwhelming for them. Instead, think about the valuable information that needs to be included and word it in a clear, concise way. People with autism may not understand metaphors, abbreviations or exaggerations in the text so if doing these things doesn’t bring any value to your content, it doesn’t need to be included.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects reading and writing skills but is not limited to this. Dyslexia is ultimately about information processing. The British Dyslexia Association explains that people who have Dyslexia may have difficulty processing and remembering information that they see or hear thus affecting their learning and acquisition of literacy skills.
Did you know that 1 in 10 people in the UK have a degree of Dyslexia? Not making your content accessible for this many people could result in a large consumer group being neglected.
When designing accessible content for people with Dyslexia, it is important to write in plain English and format your content in a structured way, with headings and paragraphs. Best practice would be to include the most important information at the top of the page and the less important content towards the bottom – this is known as an inverted pyramid method.
Best practice when designing content for Dyslexic users, would be to give users the option to change the contrast between the background and text. If the user struggles with Dyslexia and visual stress, then altering the color or contrast of the page may help them to read the text more easily.
Often Dyslexia gets mixed with Dyspraxia and although they can sometimes be linked, they are not the same thing. Dyspraxia can be defined as a condition affecting physical coordination. It causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for their age and appear to move clumsily.
Hearing loss or hearing impairment is when someone has partial or a total inability to hear. Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and often it can occur gradually with age however in some cases, it can happen suddenly no matter a person’s age.
1 in 6 of the UK adult population is affected by hearing loss and 8 million of these are aged 60 or over, therefore, to not think about their needs when designing content would mean potentially shutting off a huge client base.
A change in hearing can result in someone feeling excluded from everyday life and activities such as work, and education can become more difficult. Making materials that people with hearing impairments can access can be life-changing for them as it provides an opportunity to take part in everyday activities and feel included. A simple change that you can make is including transcripts and captions within videos, gifs and music so that those materials can be accessed by users who have a hearing impairment.
Visual impairment, also known as vision impairment or vision loss is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by the usual means such as glasses. In the UK, there are almost 2 million people living with sight loss. Of these, around 360,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted.
When designing accessible content for people with a visual impairment, you need to ensure that your website is operable using assistive technology such as a screen reader. By using the correct formatting such as headings, lists and paragraph texts, you are enabling the user could tab through your website using a screen reader or keyboard. You should also ensure all downloadable content on your website is navigable by a screen reader. This is known as accessible PDF’s and involves tagging the information within the document with the relevant labels to indicate the structure of the document, for example 'heading 1', 'heading 2', 'list'.
Print accessible documents include Braille; a tactile reading and writing system that is comprised of six raided dots in varying patterns. Accessible printed documents also include large print, which is one of the most commonly used accessible formats and involves the original materials being reproduced in a larger font, usually size 16-18.
How can we help?
Connect are Large Print, Braille Transcription & Accessibility regulations experts; with over 28 years of experience in providing accessible formats for the UK’s leading organisations.
As the UK’s experts in accessibility; we work tirelessly to ensure that your print and digital resources and education materials are kept in line with accessibility best practice guidelines.