The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability.
By making your website accessible, you are ensuring that all of your potential customers, including people with disabilities, have a superior user experience and are able to easily access your information. By implementing accessibility best practices, you are also improving the usability of your site for all visitors. Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits.
Protect your business!
There have been a flood of lawsuits in recent years brought by individual plaintiffs, the class action lawyers, and the federal regulators alleging that consumer-facing websites do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. These lawsuits could serve as the basis for visitors to your website to seek monetary fines for the failure of your business to “comply with all laws.” Although ADA Web site compliance is still a highly unsettled area of law, there are simple steps your business can take to reduce its risk of becoming subject to an ADA lawsuit.
What does the ADA have to do with websites?
The ADA prohibits places of “public accommodation” from discriminating against persons with physical and other disabilities on the basis of those disabilities. The ADA requires that places of public accommodation implement modifications to remove barriers that prevent access by persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities. Since 2000, federal and state regulators and private plaintiffs alike have argued successfully that a website is a “place of public accommodation” and that the ADA applies to websites.
If a website is a “place of public accommodation” covered by ADA, the question is whether that website is accessible by persons with sight, hearing, mobility, cognitive, and other disabilities. There is no uniform standard for determining if a website is sufficiently accessible by persons with disabilities. In 2010, the Department of Justice proposed regulations supporting the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA Guidelines as the minimum standard for website accessibility and the courts have looked favorably on this. WCAG 2.0 AA requires that websites provide the following:
- Alternative text for each image;
- Audio descriptions for video content;
- Captions for audio and video content;
- Functionality that is entirely operable through a keyboard interface, without requiring specific keystroke timings;
- Clear Web page titles that are visible in the title bar and tabs;
- Headings that are navigable by keyboard or screen reader;
- Minimum contrast ratios for text and images; and
- The ability for users to change background colors, font colors and font sizes.
A radical idea: Build a Disability Channel
These accommodations for ADA compliance are not difficult to achieve, planning them in during the initial design phase of your website requires minimal effort. Here’s something to think about:
People with disabilities are the largest minority group in North America and make up 19 percent of the U.S. population. Engage this sizable audience with an innovative marketing strategy will set you apart from your competitors.
One way to integrate accessibility into a website is to develop a specific “channel” the incorporates a modified set of design elements that are more “friendly” to those with disabilities – such as the ability to re-size fonts and change the contrast of text and background. Tools such as screen readers for the visually impaired behave in predictable ways, and a Disability Channel can take advantage of how they work.
The bottom line
The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability. Failing to take accessability into consideration when desing your website can lead to lost business and leagl liability.
Why include a Disability Channel?
Better interaction with customers
Minimize the effort required by people with disabilities as they browse your website and learn about your products or services.
Engage more customers
Targeted messaging can help build relationships with customers in the disability community. Promote products, and programs that benefit the disabled community.
Create a disability-friendly journey
Showcase your brand’s commitment to accessibility. Learn how to better engage customers with disabilities through understanding the customer segment.