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It's Past Time to Start Wrapping Your Head Around Website Accessibility
If you are hearing talk about ADA-compliant websites and are wondering what your business or organization should be doing, read on for an overview of what it’s all about.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, many of us thought of the obvious obstacles such as stairs at schools and visual-only crosswalk signals. Today, we see more modifications such as ramps and elevators for wheelchair access as well as talking crosswalk signals for blind pedestrians.
Improving accessibility for getting around town is great, but let’s face it, large portions of our population spend lots of time at home on their computers. Accessing the internet also has barriers, so the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites as well. Knowing what compliance means and why it matters should be on the agenda of every business owner or organization manager.
What ADA compliance means for a website:
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has worked out Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to follow. The Guidelines’ intention is that internet users with disabilities will find every website Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. What does that entail? Let’s break each of those down:
Web pages are typically built to be viewed, but visually impaired people actually listen to websites. That means adding alt text to describe photos and captioning videos to be read aloud. Perceivable also includes built-in options to zoom too-small text and using high-contrast colors rather than reds and greens that can’t be distinguished by those with color-blindness.
Websites offer functions from shopping online to registering for events, functions that people with disabilities want to use like everyone else. As one example, it can be difficult for someone with motor control issues to manage scrolling, which makes navigating a website, clicking on buttons, and filling out forms difficult, too. If a user can’t complete the operation the website offers, it’s not accessible.
Overly artsy, clever, or complicated websites can be confusing, especially to someone who is not already familiar with a specific industry. Avoiding jargon, simplifying the page layout, and keeping sentences short and to-the-point makes it easier for everyone to understand.
A number of different tools have been developed to help people with disabilities read and navigate online and new options are always on the drawing board. Tools such as screen readers for the visually impaired and eye-driven interaction for those without motor skills open the world wide web to more people. A robust website is capable of supporting the tools that are available today as well as those being developed for tomorrow.
Why ADA compliance for websites matters:
As of 2020, there were 40.6 million people with disabilities in the United States. That’s 40 million customers, patrons, and employees that might be using your website. Why wouldn’t you want to make it easier for them to buy your product, support your cause, or be part of your team?
Also, all of us become “less able” every day as our eyesight and hearing decline or as age-related maladies mess with our motor skills. With 74.6 million people over the age of 60 in the U.S. today, that’s a lot of folks who might need a little help accessing your website properly. Again, these aging people are your customers, patrons, and employees right now and are part of a trend that will last for quite some time.
Aside from the many obvious reasons why websites should be ADA compliant, we want to point out a nice side effect. Many of the modifications that fulfill the ADA guidelines are also good for your SEO. Photo descriptions in alt tags let search engines index your web pages properly and streamlined page layout is easier for search engine robots to crawl. Yet another example of how doing good for your community is also good for your business!
We’ll look at options for meeting ADA website guidelines next time, but if you want to know more right now, just give us a call. We are already assisting clients with website compliance and are happy to discuss the process with you, too.
Photo by Sharon Snider
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