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February 3, 2022

How to Improve Website Accessibility

The internet makes it easy for people to find the products, services, and information they’re looking for, and citizens expect the same level of accessibility from their local, state, and federal government agencies.
Posted by GovOS Team

Many different government agencies are looking at how to improve website accessibility so they can better serve citizens in an increasingly digitized world. For some, improving website accessibility can seem like a daunting task, and they may not even know where to begin when assessing how to improve website accessibility.

Improving website accessibility does not have to be a difficult task, and with our tips on how to improve website accessibility, you’ll be able to do so in a few simple ways.

Avoid the Use of Jargon

The first tip for improving website accessibility is to use plain language. Governments deal with a lot of technical jargon that most citizens won’t understand, so try to avoid using it on your website. The use of technical jargon can be confusing, and citizens deserve clear communication from their governments. Using plainer language won’t just help citizens better understand things, it’ll also increase trust in government and make governments seem more inclusive and transparent. 

Not sure what could be considered technical jargon or how to put things in plainer language? Visit plainlanguage.gov for more tips on the subject. In fact, GovOS user Jamie Klenetsky recently shared how she’s used plainlanguage.gov to help her relaunch the website for Morris County, NJ.

Break Up Text Into Easily Digestible Sections

In addition to applying plain language techniques, think about breaking up the text by adding bullet points and headers so readers can easily find what they’re looking for and use action verbs to encourage citizens to take the actions you want them to take.  

When thinking about how to improve website accessibility, governments need to consider how users read text on a webpage. Or rather, how they don’t. The average person reads just 20% of the text on a page, scanning text to find what they’re looking for rather than taking the time to read everything thoroughly. 

With that in mind, governments should aim to design their web pages around user behavior by utilizing headings to structure content on a page. Every page should have a main heading, called an “H1,” that tells users what the page is about along with other smaller headers, referred to as an “H2,” to further break up the content on the page. 

When improving website accessibility this way, keep in mind the content hierarchy. In other words, put the most important content citizens need to know towards the top of the page and within the headings themselves, when possible.

Optimize Images Using Alternative Text

Improving website accessibility is not just limited to text – images can be optimized to be easily accessible as well. This can be achieved using alternative text, also called alt text or alt tags, that provides a textual alternative to an image if it’s unable to load. Alternative text is also how visually impaired people are able to understand the text and images on a webpage. 

Those who are blind or have very limited vision often use a technology called a screen reader that will verbally recite – read – the content on a page aloud from top to bottom. Screen readers can also translate the content on a website into braille using specialized braille displays that can be connected to a computer. 

While alternative text helps websites be more inclusive and accessible, not every image on a page needs alt text. Agency logos, for example, don’t need alt text. Additionally, while alternative text should be descriptive, it should also be concise. 

Improving website accessibility in this way will help ensure the agency is more inclusive – something governments, and other kinds of organizations, strive to be in this day and age.  

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