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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Carr

Does My Website Need to Be Accessible?

These days, we’re hearing a lot about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). For many, gender, race and sexual orientation come to mind. However, people with disabilities should also be included in the conversation.

Since the American with Disabilities Act was put into place in 1990, public places are mandated to accommodate people with disabilities. Most public places including hospitals, schools and government buildings, along with many privately owned businesses, are equipped with elevators, ramps, braille, wide bathroom stalls, designated parking areas, etc. Sadly, the digital world has not followed suit.

Imagine being blind or deaf or having any number of disabilities, and trying to access information on the internet. How does that work? In most cases it doesn’t. In fact, 98% of today’s websites are not digitally accessible for people with disabilities. If you consider that 26% of Americans identify with having a disability, this leaves a large proportion of the country out of luck when it comes to internet access. During a pandemic quarantine, this lack of online accessibility is especially troublesome as it cuts off a lifeline to community, supplies and information. We should do something about that, right? Yes, we think so too.

On top of the fact that digital inclusivity is the right thing to do, it’s also a practical, proactive business strategy. A couple of years ago, Target was sued because a disabled customer was not able to use its website. The plaintiff won the suit and Target was mandated to pay $6M and make its site accessible.

But I’m Not Target

After the Target suit, others followed. Initially suits were filed against other large retailers, then museums. Soon it started filtering down to smaller shops and businesses. In 2019, 11,053 accessibility suits were filed against businesses of all sizes and types. You may never get “targeted” (heh – see what we did there?)—but what if you do? In our estimation, it’s better to get ahead of it.

Alright, So What’s an Inclusive Site Look Like?

A site that is digitally accessible has a host of extra features that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t need them, but they make a world wide web of difference to those who do. According to the ADA digital accessibility guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a fully accessible site must address the following top level concepts.

A. Perceivable

  • Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

  • Provide alternatives for time-based media.

  • Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.

B. Operable

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.

  • Provide users enough time to read and use content.

  • Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.

  • Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

C. Understandable

  • Make text content readable and understandable.

  • Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

D. Robust

  • Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

So, What Can I Do to Make My Site Digitally Inclusive?

Up until recently the only way to achieve accessibility was to do it manually. This meant retrofitting all the accessibility add-ons to an existing site, adding alternative text tags to all photos and graphics, manually adjusting colors and font sizes and implementing the full list of guidelines. This manual approach was time consuming, expensive and never-ending, as every time new content is added to the site, it had to be manually made compliant. For many businesses, nonprofits and associations, that kind of cost is not in the cards—especially during a pandemic.

Luckily, we live in a world where technology can take the place of manual remediation of a site. We have identified a great alternative to manual remediation, and we’re so sold on it we put it on our own site! This device is affordable, quick to install and makes an existing site digitally accessible. Plus, after setup it runs every 24 hours to make any new content on your site accessible.


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