The Web is a largely inaccessible place. The Internet was not originally designed for those with disabilities, and accessibility has been an afterthought. However, this does not mean web designers cannot make their sites more accessible to all users. There are many ways you can create an accessibility overlay for your website that will allow everyone to enjoy the content it offers. This article will show you how to do so.
What is an accessibility overlay, and why do you need one?
An accessibility overlay is a transparent layer that acts as an intermediary between the user and the site they are accessing. It allows you to selectively control what is seen by your users, regardless of their physical abilities or technological limitations.
Why do I need one?
There are many reasons why you might want to create an accessibility overlay for your website. Perhaps the most obvious is to allow access for those with visual disabilities. Almost every website uses fonts, images, and styles that are not available to users of assistive technology, which can render them virtually unusable. Many people using screen readers have difficulty navigating sites because forms are often displayed linearly, one after another, without obvious navigation. Site visitors with hearing disabilities will not hear multimedia content, including sound effects or music. These issues can be overcome by creating an accessibility overlay for your site.
How do I create one?
Creating an accessibility overlay is simple. You can use an existing overlay or create your own, but you will need to know how they work so that yours is compatible with any technologies your users may be using. We will not cover that here as it is beyond the scope of this article.
Testing your website’s accessibility with the overlay
Since you will be creating an overlay that makes your site more accessible to screen readers and other technologies, you must test the site with these tools. It’s not possible to create a guide for every device available, but here are some guidelines for testing with popular devices:
- Internet Explorer: press [F] in Windows
- Firefox: press [F] in Windows, or hold control and click on an element
- Safari: hold the option and click on an element
- Chrome : press Ctrl+Shift+I
If you can hear your site’s content when using these tools, then it’s likely that other users using those technologies will be able to as well. If you have any difficulty, consult the documentation for screen readers and other assistive technologies for further help.
Tips for making your website more accessible for all users
There are a number of tips that you can use to make your website more accessible for all users. Here are a few:
Use semantic HTML: Mark up content logically and consistently, not just to style the page. This will allow assistive technologies to access the information on your site more easily.
Provide alternative text attributes: Always provide alternative text for images and other types of content. Assistive technologies use this information to make their own decisions when accessing your site.
Provide skip links: Skip links allow users to jump over common elements like navigation menus and main content blocks, making getting to the relevant part of your page or site easier. When using a skip link, it is good to follow it with a heading so the user knows where they have ended up.