Is Your Website Accessible to Children with Special Needs?

Roughly 34.2 million people in the United States have a functional limitation; this number encompasses children as well. It’s easy to take for granted the little things we can easily do everyday, like accessing the internet. Online access has become a staple in children’s education, and for those who have more difficulty, it can not only hinder their learning, but also make them feel alienated from their peers. In order to create equal access to information and be inclusive, some adjustments should be made to the website by the creator to improve accessibility.

Implement Keyboard Navigation

Often, it’s assumed that everyone uses a mouse or trackpad of some kind to navigate; this actually isn’t the case, especially for individuals with special needs. Ensure your website has an inclusive design by making it easily navigated through the use of the keyboard as a stand-alone piece. The most common way to navigate via keyboard input is through the ‘tab’ key, which when pressed, will jump to areas on a page that have a ‘keyboard focus.’ Not only is keyboard navigation useful for people with mobility or coordination issues, but for children with speech difficulties as well, it helps them to be more independent without the struggle to communicate what they’re trying to access. To see how accessible a page is, including your own, simply access it without the use of your mouse. Once you have an idea of what can and can’t be navigated to through the ‘tab’ key, you can adjust your website accordingly with the help of a website keyboard accessibility guide.

Include Alt Text

In addition to making your website more easily navigated, it’s a good idea to include what’s called “alt text” for all images on every page. Alt text is the descriptive text that pops up when navigating over top of an image, or in the case that an image doesn’t load. Screen readers, a common assistive technology, actually read the alt text of images to the user, which enables them to know what’s on the page, even if they have difficulty seeing or processing visual input. This is also a good way to help children with speech difficulties become familiar with new words/phrases and emulate pronunciation.

Avoid Or Eliminate Automatic Media And Navigation

Perhaps equally important as what you include is what you should avoid, like automatic music, videos and navigation. Figuring out how to stop unwanted sound or video can be very challenging, and for kids with Autism, sudden sounds can really impact their well-being. Automatic forms of navigation like sliders or carousels can also be difficult and frustrating for those who need more time to take in the information before moving on to the next section.

The bottom line is to create content and present it in a way that is inclusive of all individuals. Doing so is not only the right, compassionate thing to do, but it is also means you’re likely to see an increase in your web traffic and conversions.


Lucy Wyndham