Accessibility for Buttons: A Comprehensive Guide

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Accessibility for Buttons: A Comprehensive Guide

Posted March 18, 2024


Posted March 18, 2024

Two buttons, one with low resolution text and an exclamation point next to it and another with higher resolution text and a checkmark next to it.
Two buttons, one with low resolution text and an exclamation point next to it and another with higher resolution text and a checkmark next to it.

Buttons play an essential role in the user experience, which means they need to be accessible and usable by as many people as possible. Learn how to create accessible buttons below.

Think about your online browsing and how often you’re clicking on buttons. Whether it’s ‘Buy Now’, or ‘Submit’, you’re likely frequently using buttons while online.

Now imagine that all buttons were suddenly disabled or unfindable. Imagine how disruptive — and frustrating — that would be. In this situation, you have two options: try to find some clever workaround or abandon your task completely.

Unfortunately, the situation above isn’t uncommon for many users. For users with disabilities, trying to click on buttons is an unnecessarily complicated task on the majority of websites. Understandably, this results in users abandoning a site for something more accessible. 

If your website doesn’t have accessible buttons, you’re driving customers — and potential sales — away. So how do you create accessible buttons? And how do these interactive elements create a more inclusive experience for all users? We’ll discuss all that and more below.

Understanding Button Accessibility

Because buttons are an integral part of the user interface, they need to be designed with web accessibility in mind. This means features such as the right color contrast and size, clear labels, and good font size need to be included from the very beginning. This ensures buttons are usable by individuals with varying disabilities, including:

  • Vision impairments: Users with visual disabilities, including blindness, low vision, or cataracts, rely on screen readers to read digital content. To ensure these technologies can read buttons, they need to have clear labels and descriptive link text. 
  • Cognitive differences: For users with dyslexia or other cognitive processing disabilities, it’s important to keep buttons simple and consistent. Simple buttons like “Buy Now” or “Learn More” give these users an idea of what happens when they click on the button, reducing anxiety and confusion.
  • Motor skill limitations: Users with limited mobility or tremors require more flexibility around buttons. This includes making the touch target for buttons bigger and providing additional keyboard navigation options.

Accessibility Requirements for Buttons

Button accessibility isn’t just good web design — it’s also a legal requirement. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are considered to be the standard for digital accessibility and are enforced by the Department of Justice. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has also adopted WCAG as its guidelines for accessibility.

According to the latest version of WCAG (WCAG 2.2), buttons need to be perceivable, operable, and understandable. More simply, buttons should be easily visible with users immediately understanding how to use the button and what action will occur once they click on it. 

Here are a few of the guidelines included in WCAG that shed more light on the features buttons need to have to be accessible:

  • The color contrast between a button and its text should be at least 4.5:1 with the ratio between the button and the background being at least 3:1.
  • Buttons should have a minimum target size of 24 X 24 CSS pixels to make them more clickable.
  • Users should be able to determine the purpose of the button from button text alone.
  • Buttons need to have more than one way to be used, meaning users should be able to navigate to and click on them through keyboard navigation or assistive technologies alone.

These are just a few of the WCAG recommendations for buttons. For a more comprehensive list, check out the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) guidelines here.

An accessibility symbol inside of a heart that has a rainbow gradient.

How to Design for Inclusion

With the legal and ethical requirements in mind, let’s jump into how to design accessible buttons.

Form and Structure

Buttons are made to be interacted with so large, simple buttons are always better. Remember, not everyone is able to simply click on a button so it’s important they have a large touch target size and can be activated with keyboard commands. You’ll also want to avoid using overly complex designs when building buttons as they can get lost on the page and negatively impact the user experience.

Color and Contrast

Buttons should be easily noticeable by all users — not just those with disabilities. And color plays a huge role in this. You’ll want to ensure the color of the button as well as the text have sufficient color contrast. As we mentioned above, text should have a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 and a contrast ratio of 3:1 between the button and the background. Using a color contrast checker can help you make more accessible color choices.

Labeling for Clarity

Think of your buttons like gateways to other parts of your website. Users are likely to be hesitant walking through an unlabeled mysterious door; that same hesitancy can be applied to unclear, ambiguous buttons. Give each button a clear, distinct, and straightforward label. You may need to use WAI-ARIA (also known as ARIA roles) to help with this. Including ARIA labels in your semantic HTML eliminates confusion or anxiety around buttons and sets clear expectations around what the ensuing action is. More importantly, clear labels help to foster inclusivity on your site as simple, clear directions help all users — including those without disabilities — van use your site.

Understanding Button States

You may not know that buttons have different states outside of their default one. This includes hover, click, active, etc. Each of these states needs to have distinct visual cues so users with disabilities and assistive technologies can use them. This helps assistive technology users easily understand which button they’re interacting with. Implementing ‘tabindex’ into your HTML is an easy way to bring focus to button widgets or dialog boxes.

Ensuring Keyboard Navigability

Not all users are able to use a mouse to navigate the web which means users need to be able to navigate and click on buttons using just their keyboard. When building and designing buttons, ensure they’re responsive to keyboard shortcuts. Button elements should also be designed with a focus state, meaning when a button receives focus (i.e. is tabbed to or hovered over), it presents a clear visual cue to the user.

Screen Reader Compatibility

A huge percentage of people with visual disabilities (87.6% according to a WebAIM survey) rely on screen readers to use the web. These devices read the content on a webpage aloud to users so you’ll want to test how these devices vocalize your buttons. Consider whether or not the text makes sense or conveys a clear action to users. We also recommended testing with various types of screen readers, such as NVDA, Voiceover, or JAWS, to increase compatibility and usability.

AudioEye’s Role in Enhancing Button Accessibility

Buttons act as an entryway to your content, products, and services. If they’re not accessible, you’re preventing a huge percentage of your users from accessing your website. 

Keep the entrances to various parts of your website open with AudioEye. Our Automated Accessibility Platform and suite of accessibility tools provide everything needed to assess and improve button accessibility. Here’s how:

  • AudioeEye’s Expert Audits scan your webpages for common accessibility errors, including inaccessible buttons, and provide real-time fixes for simple errors.
  • Custom testing by our team of experts looks further into your site to uncover more complex accessibility issues, such as poor button descriptions, and provide recommendations for remediation.
  • Accessibility training and resources provide your team with the knowledge and skills to create and build accessible web content.
  • AudioEye’s customization tools enable users to personalize the look and feel of buttons to their individual preferences, including changing the size or font of buttons.
  • Active Monitoring monitors your web pages in real-time for new accessibility issues, ensuring accessibility errors are found and fixed before they impact your customers.

With AudioEye, committing to and designing for digital inclusivity is easy. Our platform provides everything needed to prioritize web accessibility in your design practices and is your trusted partner for achieving digital accessibility and inclusivity.

Contact AudioEye today to see our platform in action.

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