What the Americans with Disabilities Act means for your Website
In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to share content with users anywhere in the world. The Internet allows individuals, entrepreneurs and companies alike to broadcast information instantly via websites, apps or web-based software. With such ease of use, it may seem counterintuitive to think there are any obstacles to accessing information. But those obstacles are exactly what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to prevent.
Potential new customers come from all walks of life. Even though company officials may not see them in person in brick-and-mortar stores, it is still important to note that some customers may have disabilities. Whether they have to cope with hearing impairment, blindness or cognitive disabilities, these individuals rely on the Internet for an open exchange of information. It’s a good bet that some of them are interested in your products or services, too.
Conduct a Website Audit
Updating websites to be ADA-compliant can be a daunting task. If a website needs a long list of changes in order to be fully accessible, this can quickly turn into an expensive and labor-intensive job. Before you get started, consider what it will take for your business to meet accessibility standards on the web.
Start by consulting the official ADA Guidelines or the government agency itself, so you understand the process. Then use the available tools to conduct an audit of your website. It may be that your website is already compliant or a few small changes could bring your website up to speed. If that’s not the case, however, you may need to draft a work plan, a timeline and a budget that will move the business toward compliance. Depending on how much work is needed, it may be beneficial to contract with an outside firm.
Update Websites to Accommodate Disabilities
The good news is that many accessibility standards function in several ways on the web, and they can improve your overall website and even impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For web-savvy workers, many of the accessibility standards are fairly easy to implement, though it should be noted that these changes could be time-consuming. A few key changes will go a long way.
Provide better accessibility to users by adding alternative text to every web element, as well as metadata. When graphics are not visible to the user, the alternative text tells the user what appears on screen. This valuable information will be read in screen-readers, providing the information to the visually impaired. Avoid marketing jargon in alternative text, instead providing clear descriptions of what is pictured.
Ensure each webpage has strong color contrast. This will help users know where to click when they want to navigate the website or make a transaction with your business.
Another component of accessibility standards relates to the website copy. In order to provide accessible information to users with disabilities, strive to use plain language – language that is clear, concise and accurate. Plain language includes short sentences, active verbs and standard vocabulary. You’ll also want to ensure any videos come with closed captioning, especially for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
Document your Progress and use it Moving Forward
As you update accessibility on the website, document your progress. Keep track of what needed to be changed, how your team addressed each problem, and the progress that has been made. This will not only give you a useful tool that you can use to address concerns from the executive board, legal complaints, and workflow questions, but it will also give you a customized guide for future web redesigns.
The information you record here should be taken into consideration every time a new webpage is created, so that the website will continue to be ADA-compliant moving forward. As an added benefit, this documentation looks great in presentations to investors or key stakeholders.