By now, you have probably heard about the ADA and Website Accessibility. The ADA requires not only wheelchair ramps, accessible parking spaces, grab bars, and pool lifts, but also accessible websites and mobile sites.
The ADA was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in “places of public accommodation.” A place of public accommodation is required to provide “auxiliary aids and services” that are necessary to ensure equal access to the goods, services, facilities, privileges, or accommodations that it offers.
ADA regulations do not explicitly address website accessibility requirements or standards. BUT the list of “auxiliary aids and services” that a business must provide include “accessible electronic information technology.” This clause has been interpreted by the courts to include websites and mobile sites.
A website is accessible if it can be successfully accessed and navigated by all people, regardless of disability or impairment. By far, the most common issue is for people with a visual disability.
Other potential concerns include:
• Blind: Screen reader compatible, including text descriptions for images, properly labeled form fields, proper use of headings, keyboard-only access, closed captions for audio and video.
• Low Vision: Color contrast, text resizing
• Deaf or Hearing Impaired: Captions for audio
• Manual Dexterity Limitations: Keyboard only access; ability to slow down or turn off time outs
• Epilepsy: No flashing content
• Color Blind: color not used as the sole method of conveying information; color contrast/pairing
How does a person with a visual impairment cruise the internet? They use screen readers, software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display. A screen reader is an interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. They convert text into synthesized speech for people who may have no or low-vision, have trouble reading, or have difficulties seeing a Web page, such as those who may be color blind. Screen readers may also include braille output technology that allows users to access information by touch to activate text reading.
Independence is the goal of most individuals who are visually impaired or have other disabilities that impact their ability to perform tasks like checking out a restaurant or planning a vacation. If they are not able to access the information they want or need on a website, they must rely on someone else to do that for them. This lack of independence is frustrating, demeaning, and puts them at a distinct disadvantage.
In a perfect world, they would be able to use available tools and technology to interpret websites for them. This is not the presently the case. The interpretation tools are available, but most websites are still not coded correctly and cannot be read by a screen reader.
The global market of people with disabilities is over 1 billion with a spending power of more than $6 trillion. Accessibility often improves the online experience for all users. There are over 25 million visually impaired people in the USA. Five million people with hearing impairment – totaling over 30 million people. Friends and family members of these people may also choose more ADA-friendly locations and businesses.
Catering to this largely undervalued market can increase revenue and mean the difference for your company’s bottom line.
Your website must be designed with Accessible Design Principles as a framework, to ensure your website and its content is easy for anyone to understand.
Some areas to consider are:
• Page titles that describe page content accurately
• Reader-friendly content with the most important information first
• Use of Alt-Tags on images to make them more informative
• Internal and external link descriptions that are descriptive and more meaningful
• Text labels on buttons and form fields to give the user information on what to do
• Pages with built-in navigation or ways that people can navigate without the use of a keyboard
• Accessible human validation on Web forms (Captcha)
Sadly, even now, most web developers aren’t up-to-date and continue to build websites the way they always have, using inaccessible templates and techniques, convincing you they are the latest and greatest out there.
Many experts have compared the recent push for web accessibility by the disablility community to a digital civil rights movement. Any time our culture makes strides towards the inclusivity of all people, we are creating a better society for future generations. Years from now, we will ask ourselves why we had never considered the rights of disabled internet users to freely and independently access information online. At DigiPro Media, we aim to make the internet a more inclusive place for all.
DigiPro Media has developed a website template that alerts you to attempts to save inaccessible items and helps guide you in maintaining accessibility once you have achieved it. We also use visually impaired employees to “human test” our websites to complement the machine scans we run and assure that our websites meet the lasted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the authority relied on by the US Courts. We also have Common Access, a “patch” that can be applied to an existing website to buy you some time and protect you while you plan for your site’s future accessibility.
To get an idea where your website stands, consider running a Free Scan & Report, a full scan of your website’s homepage with actionable steps to take for each accessibility error.
This report is a valuable business tool that you can use to rapidly evaluate your website’s overall health, inclusiveness, and searchability. Our analysis provides a deep-dive into your website’s code to give you a comprehensive scope of any issues found within your website, and suggestions on how to fix them yourself.
Checking these barriers manually would be incredibly time consuming and labor-intensive. This report is an opportunity to save time and money, with actionable suggestions available for every error.
Get a free, one-page scan at digipromedia.com/natrest.
If you or your web developer have questions, please contact DigiPro Media at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 18, Anne Sallee, Senior Account Manager of DigiPro Media, presented on “Why Digital Accessibility Compliance Matters” at the December monthly meeting of the FPRA Dick Pope / Polk County chapter.