3.5 million of the country’s 12 million veterans report that they have a disability. While there are a number of services available to aid our vets, if an individual with a disability doesn’t have equal access to the information online regarding such programs they may not even be aware of them, let alone be able to seek the help they need and deserve. An inclusive website experience is necessary to ensure veterans with special needs can still access the endless, valuable information online.
For most people, going online is a second nature process that involves navigating the internet with the use of a mouse, trackpad, or touch screen. For disabled veterans, however, they may need to rely on keyboard navigation, which isn’t always available for every website. This hinders a veteran’s ability to locate information regarding employment options and opportunities.
Lack of navigation also makes filling out forms, like job applications, incredibly challenging if not impossible. Creating an inclusive website should entail navigation that can be done through the keyboard alone. This is typically done through the use of the Tab key, which moves to any section that has been programmed with a “keyboard focus”. This should include internal links, external links, and all other content on every page. There are a number of online resources to help you achieve this.
In addition to making a website more easily navigated via keyboard, it’s important to alter any form of navigation that is automated, like rotating carousels. Even if this automation is just to display images and doesn’t cause the user to jump to a different page or section, it can still be frustrating and overall unwelcoming for those who need more time to take in information.
On the same note, don’t set up any form of automated media like music or video. You can embed a video (or music track) with a player that allows the user to play it when they choose so they’re prepared to actually be able to take in the content versus being caught off guard and missing important details.
To further improve website access for veterans, web creators should make sure their site compliments the use of assistive technology, specifically devices called “readers” that read the content to the user. Make sure you spell things out fully instead of just using acronyms and abbreviations, for example. For images on your site, include Alt tags.
Alt-text is the descriptive text you often see pop up as you pass over an image as well as what’s in place in the case that an image doesn’t load. These tags are read by assistive readers, which enables users to know what images are on the page. Once again, this helps veterans with disabilities gain access to a range of information on employment programs, medical benefits, continuing education opportunities, and so much more that is put into place to help them post-service.
Though there are a number of benefits for disabled veterans by improving access to your website, there are also benefits for you as the creator as well, like an increase in web traffic. That ultimately means you’ll be able to reach, and therefore help, more people.
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