What Are the 12 Most Common Accessibility Issues to Avoid?

Graphics of Common Accessibility Issues

While nobody sets out to exclude individuals with disabilities from accessing their website, overlooking accessibility can inadvertently restrict a significant portion of your audience. With a notable increase in accessibility-related lawsuits, delaying consideration of accessibility is no longer advisable.

For those less familiar with accessible web development, starting the process may seem daunting. A practical first step involves assessing the current accessibility status of your website. However, before conducting a comprehensive accessibility audit, it’s important to understand the key issues to address. In the following sections, we’ll outline common accessibility challenges, their implications, and initial steps toward resolution.


What are Accessibility Issues?

Let’s start by understanding what accessibility issues are before we explore the common ones. An accessibility issue refers to any barrier that makes it hard or impossible for people with disabilities to access, navigate, or interact with your website’s content.

To understand how these issues happen, we need to know how people with disabilities use websites. These disabilities include:

  • Vision impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Mobility limitations
  • Speech disorders
  • Cognitive challenges
  • Temporary or situational impairments

How someone with a disability uses websites can change based on a bunch of things, like the type of disability they have and what works best for them. For example, some folks can’t use a mouse, so they have to navigate with just the keyboard. Others rely on tools like screen readers that read website content out loud or devices they can control with their breath if they can’t move their arms.

Making sure your website works for everyone isn’t just the right thing to do—it also opens up your website to more people, which can mean more business for you. It also helps you avoid legal problems and shows that your brand cares about everyone. By fixing the most common accessibility issues, you’re making your website a better place for everyone to visit.


12 Common Accessibility Issues to Avoid:

As outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, there are 78 criteria aimed at ensuring website accessibility. However, not all of these criteria may apply to your specific website. On the other hand, there are common accessibility issues observed across different industries that warrant attention from all website owners. Here are some easily identifiable issues to consider:


1. Low Contrast on Text

A study conducted by WebAIM on the top 1,000,000 homepages revealed that low color contrast on text is a prevalent accessibility concern, affecting approximately 85% of pages. According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for typical text is required to ensure readability for all users, including those with low vision or color blindness. 

Addressing contrast issues is generally straightforward. They can be resolved on a case-by-case basis wherever specific problems arise or can be rectified across the entire site by adjusting the theme settings. Using accessibility testing tools such as a color contrast checker can help ensure sufficient contrast between text and other elements such as highlights or backgrounds. It’s important to note that different text types, such as headings, captions, and lists, may have different color schemes within the theme, necessitating a thorough review. You can read more on color contrast accessibility by clicking here


2. Missing or Inaccurate Text Alternatives for Images

A key step in improving website accessibility is ensuring that all images include descriptive text alternatives. These alternatives, known as alt text, are crucial for individuals using screen readers to understand visual content.

For images that provide important information for understanding the content, it’s important to include a meaningful alt-text description. For example, if featuring an image of a park, a suitable alt text could simply describe it as “Aerial view of Central Park in New York.”

If an image is purely decorative and doesn’t add any extra information beyond what’s in the text, it’s still necessary to include an alt tag. However, in such cases, you can leave the alt text description blank.


At Continual Engine, we believe everyone deserves an inclusive digital experience. Images are powerful tools for engagement, but without proper alt text, they can leave users with visual impairments in the dark. That’s why we offer comprehensive Alt Text & Image Accessibility Services. Our AI-powered technology, Invicta™, can analyze your images and generate accurate, descriptive alt text, saving you time and resources. Whether your image showcases a key concept or adds a touch of visual flair, Invicta™ ensures everyone understands its purpose. 

Visit our website to learn more about how we can make your website truly accessible.


3. Inappropriate Navigation Links

Poorly coded navigation links can create accessibility challenges, particularly for users who rely on screen readers. When not coded properly, these links may not be recognized by screen readers, requiring visually impaired users to listen through the navigation each time they load a new page.

To address this, assigning accurate ARIA roles to navigation menus can help indicate the purpose of the links while ensuring they are navigable. Additionally, including a ‘Skip to main content’ link on web pages allows users to bypass the navigation and directly access the main content.


4. Links Missing Text Alternatives

Are the links on your website provided with descriptive text in the source code? Similarly, if linked images are utilized, is there a text alternative that clearly describes the destination of the link? Since URLs alone may not convey where they lead, it’s important to include a brief text alternative. This is especially helpful for screen reader users seeking specific information on your page.

For example, if a user is searching for customer support and a question mark icon links to your support pages, ensure the text alternative explicitly states “Customer support” or a similar description. Additionally, if the link opens in a new browser window or directs to an external site, including this information in the text alternative is beneficial for clarity.


5. Improving HTML Structure for Accessibility

The way your webpage is structured in HTML is crucial, especially for those who rely on screen readers. If your heading structure isn’t accurate, it can make your content disorganized and challenging to navigate. For instance, using bold text instead of proper heading tags can cause confusion. To ensure clarity, your headings should be properly nested, with the most important heading tagged as rank 1 (<h1>) and subsequent subheadings following in order.


6. Enhancing Accessibility of Non-HTML Content

Even non-HTML content like PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint presentations can pose accessibility challenges for users. The solution lies in making these documents accessible by adding tags for navigation by a screen reader.

You can also include an Accessibility Checker feature within your PowerPoint and Word software to help create accessible documents.


7. Missing Subtitles and Video Captions

Missing subtitles and captions are a significant barrier for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Videos without captions exclude this audience from the content entirely. Captions also benefit people who speak a different language from the video’s audio, viewers in noisy environments, and those who simply prefer to follow along with text. Providing captions ensures everyone has equal access to the information presented in your videos.


At Continual Engine, we believe in inclusive digital experiences, and that extends to video content. That’s why we offer the best video accessibility services to bridge the gap. Our powerful AI technology can transcribe audio into accurate captions, ensuring clear and concise information delivery for viewers who rely on captions. This not only improves accessibility but also expands your video’s reach to a wider audience. By making your videos accessible, you’re ensuring everyone has the opportunity to learn from and engage with your content.


8. Missing WAI-ARIA attributes

WAI-ARIA, the Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications, helps developers create user-friendly interactive content on websites. This includes things like drag-and-drop features or sliders. However, if these features aren’t set up correctly, they can cause issues for people who rely on screen readers or voice commands.

But don’t worry! You can fix this by adding ARIA attributes to your website’s code. These attributes help tools for people with disabilities understand the content and make it easier for them to navigate. ARIA can also provide extra info and alerts for people using screen readers, which is important for improving existing web pages.


9. Lack of Keyboard Accessibility for Screen Reader Users 

Sometimes, it’s hard or even impossible for people with visual impairments to use a mouse to move around websites. Instead, they rely on using just the keyboard, using keys like Tab and shortcuts.

To make your site accessible to these users, you need to make sure every part of your website is easy to reach and use with a keyboard. This means organizing content well with clear headings, making sure links and forms are easy to find, and ensuring that media controls can be operated without a mouse.

It’s also important to have a visible focus indicator when navigating with a keyboard. These indicators show users with low vision which part of the page they’re currently focused on. They usually appear as borders or highlights around the selected element and should follow a logical order as users move through the page.

The best way to solve this problem is to make sure that anything you can do with a mouse on your website, like clicking buttons or links, can also be done with just a keyboard. This ensures that everyone, whether using a mouse or a keyboard, can easily interact with your website.


10. Non-accessible Forms

Website forms are essential for user interaction, but they can be tricky for individuals with visual impairments. Here are some common issues and how to address them:


a. Clear Form Labels

Forms are essential for website functionality but can be problematic for accessibility, especially with empty form labels. These labels provide crucial information about required input but may not always be clear or readable. It’s important to ensure that form labels are descriptive and easily understood by assistive technologies.

b. Unclear Form Controls

Certain form controls, like “next page” or “submit,” are straightforward, but others may be unclear, particularly for users relying on assistive devices. For example, date selection tools may not be effectively conveyed through screen readers. Thorough testing can help identify if form controls are accessible and intuitive for all users.

c. Managing Time-Outs

Many forms implement time-outs for security purposes, such as in purchasing processes. However, users using screen readers or assistive devices may require more time to complete forms. Providing clear notifications about impending time limits and allowing users to extend the time as needed is essential for ensuring an inclusive user experience.


11. Accessibility Overlays

Accessibility overlays have become more popular recently as a quick solution. However, it’s essential to understand that overlays don’t fix the fundamental accessibility issues in your website’s source code. Sometimes, overlays can even make things more difficult for people with disabilities by overriding their screen reader settings. If your team doesn’t have much expertise in accessibility, it’s best to avoid overlays and consider using automated accessibility testing tools instead to review your code.


12. Image Carousels or Sliders

Image carousels or sliders are common features on websites because they allow content creators to showcase multiple pieces of content in a limited space. But if they’re not implemented correctly, like not including an ARIA label, they can create problems for accessibility. This means that users who rely on screen readers or keyboard navigation might get stuck in the carousel or slider without being able to move away from it.


Closing Thoughts

Making your website accessible isn’t just about legal compliance; it’s about creating an inclusive experience for everyone. By addressing common accessibility issues, you open your website to a wider audience, improve your brand image, and ensure everyone has equal access to the information you offer. Remember, making your website accessible is an ongoing process, but the benefits are well worth the effort. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 


1. What are the different types of accessibility?

Accessibility includes various challenges users may encounter when accessing your product or service:

  • Vision-related difficulties, such as color blindness or low vision.
  • Motor or mobility issues, affecting wheelchair users and others.
  • Auditory impairments, including hearing difficulties.
  • Seizures, such as those related to photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Learning or cognitive impairments, such as dyslexia.

Additionally, there are incidental barriers like sleep deprivation and environmental obstacles, such as using a mobile device underground for work reasons.


2. How can accessibility issues be resolved?

Addressing accessibility concerns involves conducting both manual and automated tests to ensure compliance with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Necessary changes to the website’s design and functionality should be made to enhance compliance. For instance, improving text color contrast, providing alternative text for images, organizing content logically, ensuring form accessibility, and appropriately labeling links.


3. What are the four significant categories of accessibility?

The four fundamental principles guiding accessibility, according to WCAG 2.0, are Perceivability, Operability, Understandability, and Robustness (POUR).


4. What are accessibility bugs?

Accessibility bugs occur when a website fails to meet WCAG guidelines or provides a suboptimal user experience for individuals relying on assistive technology. These bugs indicate that content may not be accessible to all users, not just those with disabilities. Resolving such bugs involves ensuring compliance with WCAG criteria, particularly concerning color contrast limits, to address issues like difficulty viewing screens in bright light.


Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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