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The Importance of Website Accessibility

publish date: February 12, 2018

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted into law in 1990 and covers a range of areas to ensure protection for individuals with disabilities from discrimination. When it was first signed into law, the internet wasn’t nearly as relevant as it is currently and, as a result, there wasn’t as much oversight for accessibility on the web. This changed in 2010 when there were changes made to the language in the Disabilities Act to reflect the growing digital world.    

The Effects of the Digital Shift

Since the shift in 2010, there is much more of an expectation that websites will be accommodating to all individuals. This means that the courts are becoming more receptive to suits over websites that are not fully accessible. While cases have had mixed outcomes thus far, there is a precedence of cases being won against companies for not complying to the ADA guidelines.

So what are the kinds of compliance that are being more closely watched now? According to the Department of Justice, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is what is considered the standard currently. These look at the following:

● Perceivable

● Operable

● Understandable

● Robust

What these four areas summarize is that your site needs to present it’s content so it can be consumed and navigated by all individuals and should work across all of the available browsers. 

How to make your site ADA compliant

Steps to make your site ADA compliant can either be taken retroactively, after your site has been live, or proactively while you are developing your site. Either way, there are certain key areas that you should pay attention to when trying to align your site with WCAG 2.0.

● Text Alternatives - You need to provide a way for visually impaired users to still access your content. This would include alternatives for content that isn’t text, such as images and videos.

● Distinguishable - Make your content easily readable with the style of font you choose and make sure to use a color scheme that doesn’t cause confusion.

● Navigation - Provide multiple ways to navigate your website with easy to follow links and make all of this navigation available via keyboard (without the mouse).

● Compatibility - All of the suggestions for your website should function on all current browsers. Optimizing your site will be for not if it doesn’t function on the users preferred browser.

Conclusion

While there has been a focus on adhering to ADA compliance because of the growing legal ramifications, don’t lose focus that the actual concern should be improving your website so you can reach everyone who wants to see your content and reach the largest audience you can. If you look at the list of recommendations above, you’ll see that none of them are there to simply check off a box and say you are compliant. They all serve a purpose for improving the user experience on your website and should be part of your digital strategy.

With this said, the process can be a little daunting if you aren’t familiar with website development. There are many great resources on the internet for improving your site and many developers have a toolset that can quickly find and correct issues you may be having. The important thing to remember is that with the digital world growing in prominence and competition becoming more stiff, you need to take steps towards addressing accessibility and ensuring all individuals can find and interact with your company on the web.  


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