Accessibility Matters: Designing Inclusive Custom Web Applications

Accessibility Matters: Designing Inclusive Custom Web Applications

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Accessibility is a critical aspect of custom web application design and development that often goes overlooked.

Why? Well, because it looks like one of these things you must do but don’t really want to…like brushing your teeth when you’re a little kid.

But what if I told you that it actually makes business sense for you to care about accessibility? Curious how? Well, look no further, as we’ll be exploring this point and many more in today’s article!

Let’s dig in.

Key points:

  • Understanding web accessibility and its impact on businesses and users
  • Common accessibility challenges in custom web applications
  • Best practices for designing inclusive custom web applications
  • Integrating accessibility into the development process
  • The business case for investing in accessible custom web applications

Understanding Web Accessibility: What Every Business Owner Must Know

Web accessibility refers to designing and developing websites and web applications that people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities can use without compromising the experience. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.

Interesting Fact: According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. Which doesn’t really make accessible design a fringe consideration. 

Ensuring web accessibility is a moral obligation and a legal requirement. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all public websites and applications be accessible to people with disabilities. Additionally, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide standards for creating accessible web content.

The benefits of accessible web applications for businesses are:

  • Increased user base and market reach
  • Improved user experience and satisfaction
  • Enhanced brand reputation and trust
  • Reduced risk of legal issues and complaints

By prioritizing web accessibility, businesses can tap into a larger customer base and demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility. 

Interesting Fact: A study by the Click-Away Pound Survey found that 69% of users with access needs will leave a website if it doesn’t meet their accessibility requirements.

Common Accessibility Challenges in Web Applications

Web applications often present unique accessibility challenges that can hinder the user experience for people with disabilities. Let’s look at the most common ones to determine what we can do about it!

Complex User Interfaces and Navigation

Imagine navigating a website or application with a confusing layout, unclear buttons, or a complex menu structure. Now imagine trying to do that if you have a cognitive impairment or are using a screen reader. It can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. 

To make your application more user-friendly, consider the following:

  • Keep the design simple and intuitive
  • Use clear, concise language for instructions and feedback
  • Make sure navigation is consistent throughout the application

Incompatibility with Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies, like screen readers or switch devices, help people with disabilities interact with websites and applications. If your custom web application isn’t built with these technologies in mind, they cannot use your website, like at all!

To ensure your application works well with assistive technologies, consider the following:

  • Use standard, accessible technologies like HTML and ARIA
  • Test your application with standard assistive technologies
  • Provide alternative ways to navigate and interact with the application

Interesting Fact: Did you know that nearly 98% of the top 1 million websites have accessibility issues that could impact users with disabilities?

Poor Color Contrast and Readability 

Trying to read a book with very light text on a white background or dark text on a black background would be pretty challenging, wouldn’t it? 

For people with color blindness or other visual impairments, it’s already like that! Mainly because many website developers don’t consider this when creating their website. Poor color contrast can make it nearly impossible to read text or understand important information. 

To improve readability and accessibility, consider the following:

  • Use colors that have a high contrast ratio, as recommended by the WCAG
  • Choose clear, easy-to-read fonts and provide options to adjust text size
  • Don’t rely solely on color to convey important information

Lack of Keyboard Navigation and Focus Management 

Using a mouse can be difficult or impossible for people with motor impairments. They often rely on keyboard navigation to interact with websites and applications. If your web application doesn’t support keyboard navigation or has poor focus management, it becomes a frustrating experience that’s not worth doing. 

To address this challenge:

  • Make sure all interactive elements can be accessed and used with a keyboard
  • Provide clear visual indicators of where the user is focused on the page
  • Allow users to skip over repetitive navigation and jump straight to the main content

Interesting Fact: Over 4 million Americans aged 40 and older have a visual impairment that can affect their ability to use websites and applications.

Inaccessible Multimedia Content 

Videos, images, and other multimedia content can enhance an experience but can also create accessibility challenges. 

Inaccessible multimedia content can be a significant barrier for users with visual or auditory impairments. 

To make your multimedia content more accessible, consider the following:

  • Provide captions and transcripts for videos
  • Include alternative text descriptions for images that convey important information
  • Offer audio descriptions for videos that rely heavily on visual content

Best Practices for Designing Inclusive Custom Web Applications

So, now that we have figured out what we should NOT do…what should we DO? Excellent question!

Let’s look at some development practices one can use while designing their custom web application to acknowledge accessibility from the ground up. 

Conduct Accessibility Audits and User Testing 

Accessibility audits involve evaluating a web application against established accessibility guidelines, such as WCAG, to identify potential barriers and areas for improvement. 

User testing with individuals with disabilities can provide valuable insights into the real-world usability of the application. 

For example, a company developing a custom e-commerce platform could recruit users with visual impairments to test the application’s compatibility with screen readers and provide feedback on the overall user experience.

Implement Responsive Design for Various Devices and Screen Sizes

Responsive design ensures that a web application adapts seamlessly to different devices and screen sizes, providing an optimal user experience across desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones. By using elements like:

  • flexible layouts, 
  • scalable images, 
  • media queries

Developers can create applications that are accessible and usable on a wide range of devices. 

For instance, a responsive design for a custom learning management system would ensure that students can access course materials and participate in discussions from any device without sacrificing functionality or accessibility.

Use Semantic HTML and ARIA

Attributes for Better Structure and Navigation Semantic HTML provides a clear and meaningful structure to web content, making it easier for assistive technologies to interpret and navigate. 

ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) attributes can be used to enhance the accessibility of dynamic content and custom controls. For example, using semantic headings (e.g., <h1>, <h2>) and landmarks (e.g., <nav>, <main>) can help screen reader users understand the layout and hierarchy of a web application, while ARIA attributes like aria-label and aria-describedby can provide additional context for custom controls.

Ensure Adequate Color Contrast and Provide Alternative Text for Images 

Sufficient color contrast between text and background colors is crucial for visually impaired users to read and understand content. 

The WCAG provides guidelines for minimum color contrast ratios, which developers should adhere to. 

Additionally, providing alternative text for images that convey important information ensures that users with visual impairments can access the same content as sighted users. 

For example, in a custom web application for a real estate company, high-contrast color schemes and alternative text for property images would ensure that all users can access and understand the available listings.

Provide Keyboard Accessibility and Clear Focus Indicators

Many users with motor impairments rely on keyboard navigation to interact with web applications. Ensuring that all interactive elements are keyboard accessible and providing clear focus indicators helps these users navigate and use the application effectively. 

For instance, in a custom project management tool, implementing keyboard shortcuts for everyday actions and visually highlighting the currently focused element would significantly enhance the accessibility and usability of the application for keyboard-only users.

Offer Closed Captions and Transcripts for Multimedia Content

Closed captions and transcripts should accompany video and audio content to make it accessible to users with hearing impairments. Captions should be synchronized with the audio and provide a text alternative for spoken words and important sounds. Transcripts should include speaker identification and describe any relevant visual information. 

Although some of these efforts would have been a costly affair in the past given they relied on human input, the advent of AI tools should make CCs transcripts commonplace, almost a prerequisite!

Simplify User Interfaces and Provide Clear Instructions and Feedback 

Simplifying user interfaces and providing clear instructions and feedback can greatly improve the accessibility and usability of custom web applications. 

This includes using plain language, breaking complex processes into smaller, manageable steps, and providing helpful error messages and confirmation prompts. 

For instance, a custom online banking application could use simple, jargon-free language in its user interface, provide step-by-step guidance for complex transactions, and offer clear confirmation messages to help users with cognitive impairments navigate and confidently use the application.

The Business Case for Investing in Accessible Custom Web Applications

But – ah – the world we live in makes some things challenging if morality is the only argument. 

Indeed, while accessibility should be an obligation when talking about operations with many moving parts, it also becomes a question of validity and economic viability. 

I have good news: investing in accessible design can be a net positive for your operations!

Let’s unravel how, exactly. 

Expanding Market Reach to Include Users with Disabilities

By creating accessible custom web applications, businesses can expand their potential customer base and reach this significant market segment. Accessible applications allow users with disabilities to engage with a company’s products or services, increasing potential revenue streams.

Improving User Satisfaction and Loyalty

Accessible custom web applications provide a better user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. Companies can improve user satisfaction and foster loyalty by offering a seamless, intuitive, and inclusive experience. Studies have shown that users with disabilities are more likely to become loyal customers of businesses that prioritize accessibility, as they often face limited options in the market.

Differentiating from Competitors and Demonstrating Social Responsibility 

Prioritizing accessibility can help businesses differentiate themselves from competitors who may overlook this crucial aspect of web development. By showcasing a commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility, companies can attract customers who value these principles and establish themselves as industry leaders in accessibility.

Mitigating Legal Risks and Potential Financial Losses

Failing to comply with accessibility regulations can expose businesses to legal risks and potential financial losses. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in web accessibility lawsuits, with companies facing costly settlements and damaging their reputation. 

By proactively addressing accessibility in custom web applications, businesses can mitigate these legal risks and avoid non-compliance’s financial and reputational consequences.

Future-Proofing the Application for Evolving Accessibility Standards 

Investing in accessibility from the outset ensures that custom web applications are future-proofed for evolving accessibility standards and regulations. As accessibility guidelines and technologies continue to advance, having a solid foundation of accessibility in place makes it easier and more cost-effective to adapt and update applications over time.

Data and Numbers:


Creating accessible custom web applications is a win-win situation for businesses and users. By prioritizing accessibility, companies can expand their market reach, improve user satisfaction, differentiate themselves from competitors, and mitigate legal risks.

If you’re considering developing a new custom web application or optimizing an existing one, it’s crucial to keep accessibility at the forefront of your design and development process.

Our team of experts is dedicated to creating inclusive digital experiences that cater to the needs of all users. Book a call today to discuss how we can help you build accessible custom web applications that drive business success while promoting digital equality.