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Making Websites Accessible to Visually Impaired Users

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1440528_79415108The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired. Of those 285 million, 39 million are blind and 246 million have moderate to severe impairment. Prevent Blindness America estimates that 53.2 million Americans who are 45 or older have visual impairments ranging from mild to severe. Considering these statistics, it is important to make websites accessible to visually impaired users.

Below are a few helpful tips to make your site accessible to the visually impaired:

Enlarged Text
Larger text can mean the difference between your website being readable and unreadable for many people who are visually impaired. Ask your web designer about the possibility of offering alternate stylesheets with larger fonts. You might also consider making the default font larger or offering text-only versions of your web pages. Providing a number of options will allow visually impaired users to access your website in a way that works for them.

Contrast
Many common visual impairments such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy generally lead to decreased contrast sensitivity. People who suffer from decreased contrast sensitivity due to these types of visual impairments find it difficult to see the difference between similar colors and brightness levels.

In order to make your web pages more accessible, you can add more contrast between your page elements. You may also want to avoid any techniques that would prevent users from being able to highlight elements or change the default behavior for highlighting. Keep in mind that visually impaired users often use highlighting to increase the contrast as they browse websites.

Colors
Some visually impaired users are affected by color blindness. When possible, you might consider offering alternate color schemes for visually impaired users. You’ll want to pay particular attention to actionable elements such as buttons. Avoid common color combinations that affect color blind users such as red and green or blue and yellow.

Desktop vs. Mobile
Allow desktop users to browse your mobile website. Mobile websites are often ideal for users with visual impairments because they are simplified versions of the standard website. You can often boost the accessibility of your website with little expense simply by opening up your mobile website to desktop users.

Keyboard Shortcuts
Adding keyboard shortcuts will improve the usability of your website for visually impaired users. Instead of straining to see a cursor or mouse pointer, users will be able to navigate with arrow keys and other quick and easy keystrokes.

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