The constant improvement of websites and digital technologies has tremendously changed the way people live. And this includes everyone- from people with differing abilities to those who have limited access to the internet, the computer-illiterate and so on.
Despite the innovations, there are still barriers to the web that prevent many people from accessing it independently. And this is why the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) introduced the standards of web accessibility as the ultimate solution to address web issues encountered by many, especially those with disabilities.
Let’s talk about web accessibility, ADA compliance audit, repair and why it is important for your business. We’ve also included some tips as well as the best practices you can do to make your site more accessible.
Why Accessibility Becomes More and More Important Today
Many websites nowadays are useless for the disabled even though it’s aesthetically well-designed. This is due to its inaccessible features and layout.
In today’s generation, accessibility is demanded particularly on websites and other online tools. This is because the web is now considered a necessity for people and primarily beneficial too for those with diverse conditions. Because an accessible website makes it easier for people to navigate and interact on the web.
Now, to better understand the concept of web accessibility let’s first define what it is.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the opportunity given to everyone—principally those with permanent, temporary and situational disabilities—in interacting and navigating websites, and other online resources without possible barriers. Furthermore, web accessibility embodies the four principles of good web design and features: perceivable, operable, robust and understandable.
It aims at ending any form of discrimination to create an online environment where everyone can independently use the web without barriers.
Web accessibility is regarded as a universal design, which affords everyone to use the web without fear of experiencing any barriers. Aside from that, it provides alternative digital solutions.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set the standards for the degree of web compliance and serves as the main authority in making other accessibility laws. In your pursuit of making your site accessible, you should consider checking WCAG as it’s one of the most comprehensive web accessibility guidelines that’s internationally recognized. You must also see to it to comply with governing laws in your state or country to avoid potential litigations.
What is the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted due to the growing number of people with disabilities and the challenges they encounter every day. It prohibits any form of prejudice based on incapacity. This law also punishes entities that discriminate against people on account of their disabilities. ADA covers all organizations (either privately-owned or government-owned) that offer services to the general public.
In ADA, web design agency, businesses and government agencies are all considered places of public accommodation. However, as we become more digital, services can now be availed online and not just from a physical store or office. Consequently, the Department of Justice issued a Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM), requiring businesses to apply digital accessibility best practices. This is to ensure the disabled can make use of the web conveniently and remain as a space to help them with their needs.
What is Section 508?
Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and 1998, mandating federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to individuals with diverse conditions. Also covered by this law are vendors, contractors, and partners of the federal agencies doing business in the US.
Moreover, in 2017 accessibility requirements for information and communication technology in the federal agencies were updated to adjust with the current communication and technological innovations. Thus, making it easier for PWDs to access the information they need.
What is WCAG?
World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is produced through the W3C’s conscientious effort, and other organizations worldwide. It aims to have a single guideline for web accessibility that can satisfy everyone’s needs, particularly people with disabilities.
Its purpose is to guide and provide solutions on making the web more accessible. Ideally, it envisions web page accessibility for everyone. Currently, WCAG 2.1 is the latest standard release in June of 2018. For more comprehensive details about this, please visit the W3C’s website or check their WCAG quick reference guide.
What is VPAT?
The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a document executed by a vendor, which voluntarily evaluates and discloses information about its product’s accessibility. You can use this document (VPAT) as a basis before deciding to purchase the product.
Why Web Accessibility Is Crucial for Business
Web accessibility matters in business and is crucial to its growth and safety. Following the standards of accessibility is an all-inclusive approach that benefits both the business as well as the general public.
As a business owner, complying with web accessibility standards isn’t only your safest route to litigation avoidance. But doing so also comes with a plethora of benefits. It creates positive public perception, increases conversion rate and revenue, optimizes SEO, expands your audience reach, and much more.
But beyond these rewards, you also help persons with disabilities to have independence and security when navigating and interacting online.
Dominos’ Pizza Case
The Domino’s Pizza case a case filed by a blind person against Domino’s Pizza for failure to take his order on its website/apps despite several attempts.
Here, Domino’s Pizza argued that websites and apps are not within the purview of Title III of ADA. Nevertheless, the Circuit Court ruled that websites and apps are an extension of the respondent’s physical store. It is impliedly considered places of public accommodation, which fall under Title III of ADA. This is since Domino’s Pizza maintains a physical store where it offers its products and services and does the same on its website/apps while operating under one pizza franchise.
How to Apply Web Accessibility on Your Website
Making your site accessible isn’t very complicated nor expensive. Truth is, even the smallest changes can create the biggest impact. Now if you’re ready to make your site more accessible, start with the following:
#1. Explanatory Link Text
Explanatory text links help those who use assistive technologies, like screen-reader users, to examine a page from one link to another without checking the whole content. Moreover, you should avoid using the word “link” in your links. You must also limit capitalizing links and eliminate broken links.
#2. Prioritize Text Clarity
Both normal users and visually impaired users can encounter problems with unclear text content. Thus, you should prioritize text clarity to make your content more readable and clearer. You should follow WCAG guidelines to properly execute this.
#3. Don’t Rely Exclusively on Color
Color is effective for normal users because they could recognize them well. However, those who are color blind or have other visual problems may have a hard time identifying it. Therefore, you should not rely exclusively on color, instead, add labels to explain functions.
#4. Order Content in HTML for Screen Readers
Screen reader users depend on codes when browsing on the web page. So, it’s essential to ensure that codes are in logical order content within HTML. This way, screen-readers can read the information in a logical and coherent order. Otherwise, the content may be read incorrectly and confuse users.
#5. Enable Keyboard Navigation for Web Design
Enabling keyboard navigation features benefits all users who prefer a keyboard to a mouse. However, those with visual and motor impairments are left with no options—making them reliant on keyboard navigation. So, make sure to enable keyboard navigation on your site’s design or layout, and features.
#6. Use a 40×40 pt. Clickable Area for Touch Controls
A 40×40 pt. button size is easier to tap or press. It’s primarily useful to those with big thumbs, screen-reader users and mobile-devices users.
#7. Do Not Forget to Follow the Accessibility Checklist
A constant review of the accessibility checklist will keep you away from possible legal action, improves site performance, and provide your users with a better user experience.
What is an Accessibility Statement?
An accessibility statement is your voluntary disclosure of your plan to support web accessibility standards. It’s also your best weapon against legitimate and illicit lawsuits.
Publishing an accessibility statement and linking it on the footer of every web page shows that you remain committed to applying the principles and techniques of web accessibility. Nevertheless, it is best published before or during the development or redesign of your site so that early detection of defects can be monitored and rectified quickly.
Usability & Accessibility Testing
Usability and accessibility testing should take place after a product is developed. Its main goal is to evaluate whether your site can be used and accessed by everyone with minimal effort. Such testing is usually based on a set of criteria such as learnability, efficiency and user satisfaction. It is recommended to do usability testing with visually impaired individuals.
If your site visitors can use it with less effort and can complete tasks at ease, then it is safe to assume that your product is accessible and usable.
Successful implementation of web accessibility standards lies in constant consideration of the welfare of all users, especially persons with disabilities. For businesses, complying with various accessibility standards and policies is always a good path to take.
About the Author!
David started Be Accessible because of his passion for website accessibility and ADA compliance. He spent much of his career working for financial institutions creating websites and mobile applications. He earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. David is an advocate for creating web interfaces usable by all people. He enjoys recording music and playing soccer with friends.