When businesses consider the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and what they need to do to remain compliant, much of the focus tends to center around improving accessibility at a brick-and-mortar location. While such considerations are certainly important, companies in today’s digital age also need to evaluate how their website meets the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Why Accessibility Matters
It is estimated that 12 percent of the U.S. population has at least one disability. Physical, auditory, cognitive, visual, and other disabilities affect many facets of daily life, including one’s ability to access and enjoy the many resources made available through the internet — such as your website.
These individuals are often unable to fully interact with or contribute to the internet without extra tools or features that streamline their experience, such as screen readers which read text aloud to visually impaired web users.
Individuals with such disabilities aren’t the only ones who can experience accessibility issues. Many low-income families use slow internet connections or limited bandwidth, which can make it hard to access many of today’s media-heavy sites. Even a temporary issue, like a broken arm, can keep someone from having full access to the internet’s resources.
Web accessibility isn’t just a matter of convenience. Today, it has become an issue of social inclusion, with the internet playing a vital role in everything from education and health care to entertainment and e-commerce. In fact, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines web access as a “basic human right.”
As a result, many types of sites are legally obligated to provide accessibility resources to those with disabilities. Many accessibility practices result in SEO boosts and increase your potential digital audience.
Making Your Site More Accessible
Because the internet is such a visual medium, many basic accessibility measures are designed to help those who rely on a screen reader to enjoy web content. There’s a strong likelihood that your website features logos, photographs, or even charts. Creating “alt text,” which accurately describes the image and its purpose, is crucial when an image conveys important information. These descriptions are made in the site’s HTML settings.
Other considerations include appropriate color contrast, as some readers cannot perceive text if there isn’t enough color contrast. Flashing images or videos could cause seizures for those with photosensitive conditions, and should be removed. A thorough check for such issues is essential.
Other multimedia content, such as video, may not be fully appreciated by those with visual or auditory disabilities. Captioning, video transcripts, or an audio description can better convey the full experience being communicated by the media.
Such enhancements are an important start, but they are far from the only ways you can improve site accessibility. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has many additional resources to help site owners understand how they can improve online accessibility.
The internet is a diverse place that deserves to be enjoyed by all. When you take steps to make your site more accessible, a wider range of individuals will be able to benefit from your content or purchase your products. Creating an accessible website is ultimately a win-win for everyone.