These days there’s no reason why a disabled person is unable to conduct business, go to school or do anything on the internet. All businesses should be building websites that are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Many website owners are already accommodating their users and providing the best online experiences for them. This encourages loyalty because all people are welcome to their website, which also means they can attract a larger audience, too. Compliance is also important to avoid any potential lawsuits. The only way to stay competitive in a world where users are far more socially conscious and willing to criticize businesses publicly is to continue to meet the needs of your users and break down barriers between you and them.
The Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans in with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush and was intended to protect all people with disabilities from being discriminated against in work, education, and other situations. It changed a lot of ways that cities are structured, including architecture and construction. It made it possible for students with disabilities to have accommodations so they can learn. It’s why you see walkways that are easier for people with wheelchairs to use in front of buildings. It also is the reason why more people with visual or hearing disabilities, or any other disabilities, are able to enjoy using the internet because accommodations are made on websites so that prior barriers are broken down.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
In 2008 the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were established by the World Wide Web Consortium. These accessibility standards broadly outlined how to create websites that were accessible to a wide group of people with disabilities, which means that a person who uses a website with a disability is able to have access to the same functions and information as a user without a disability. These guidelines were later updated in 2018. Specifically outlined was what content must be accessible, such as:
- HTML pages
- PDF documents
- Vector graphics
- Mobile versions of the website
They also include mobile apps, and at On The Map Marketing, we have built apps, WordPress websites, and eCommerce websites that are ADA-compliant and are optimized to be found by search engines. These guidelines provide the framework that our web developers use when designing websites for our clients, from multi-national corporations to small businesses that have just enough employees to be required to follow ADA guidelines.
There are four main principles of accessibility.
This one is easy to start with. By asking yourself if someone who is colorblind, has poor vision or is blind would be able to perceive your website. Or if someone who is deaf could hear it. If users cannot process the information that is on your website, then you might as well not have information on your website at all. Your website needs to provide a text with audio information, and audio information along with text so that users with either disability can still receive the presented information. However, it does not mean that you must create audio for all of the text on your website. It does mean that your website must be usable with screen readers and assistive technologies without requiring an app.
How can a person use your website? Do any of the functions require the use of the keyboard? People with physical disabilities may not be able to operate a mouse and may rely on other technology to input information. Does your website work with this type of technology and know how to process incoming information from assistive technologies? If not, you will need to remove that barrier between your website and disabled users.
No user, regardless of ability, wants to be on a website that is hard to navigate. If a website is poorly structured, then it’s not going to have a sensible flow. Users may find themselves lost on webpages they didn’t mean to get to, and ultimately exit the website.
Can your website be used with previous versions of the popular browsers and operating systems? If not, then it is not accessible to all people. It is highly advised not to build a website that is only compatible with the latest version of a type of technology.
How To Create An Accessible Website
Now that you have a better understanding of the principles underlying the guidelines, it’s time to focus on what it actually means in practice. There are a number of ways that businesses can make their websites more excessive more accessible to people with disabilities:
- Offer alternative suggestions when there are input errors: Some users may have difficulty typing due to their disability. If your website can suggest words when performing a search, or offer recommendations to users, then it makes it much easier for those users to get where they want to go.
- Keep it organized: Good structure is an important part of making a website easy to navigate. Focus on exactly how many options you want on menus, since they can get excessively long and may be difficult to scroll through.
- Create alternative text for all content: If you have an image on your website, for example, then text that accurately describes the image is very helpful to users with visual disabilities. Creating alternative text and captions enables more users to enjoy your content.
How On The Map Marketing Helps You
On The Map Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency that has been in the industry for over 10 years and has helped companies of all sizes to grow and reach new audiences. We build ADA-compliant websites but we also offer a number of other digital services including:
- Building ADA-compliant apps
- Building ADA-compliant mobile versions of websites
- CMS migration services
- eCommerce services
- WordPress ADA plug-ins