April is National Home Inventory Month: Find out more
28 Dec 2018

A Review of 2018

2018 was a very busy year, welcoming new members and congratulating more members who achieved their CIS and CAE certifications. Additionally, two major efforts were achieved this year.

Website upgrades and edits

We made many changes to our NICA website. Since these updates were “behind the scenes” so to speak, you might not be aware of our continued investment in time and funds to keep our website compliant. We are pleased that we were able to meet the deadlines on all requirements. These website changes include:

  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. This requires that all people with disabilities be able to access all website information. Examples are 1) words must be associated with each photo for those who use a reader, 2) being able to use a keyboard for those who cannot use a mouse, 3) elimination of certain colors that are not allowed due to those with color blindness, etc. 
  • Assuring members and visitors that our website is secure. The Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP. This is the protocol over which data is sent between a browser and the website. The “s” indicates that it is encrypted. Any website that is not secure is or will be identified by search engines placing messages such as “Not secure” in the url bar, notifying the person visiting that site that the transfer of information is not encrypted.
  • Meeting new requirements in data protection laws. The biggest change in 20 years, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) established requirements to assure anyone who enters personal information (signing up for the newsletter, purchasing courses) via the website that their information will be used only for that purpose. This guarantees that we will not share their information. 

(If your website does not meet these 3 items, we recommend that you contact Associate Member Mary Gillen (mary@marygillen.com) to discuss what is needed to update your website.)

National Home Inventory Month

NICA organized and established April as National Home Inventory Month. This effort can be utilized to bring awareness to our industry as well as to each of our members’ individual home inventory businesses.

There are a variety of ways each home inventory professional can participate and provide education about this initiative. A few suggestions to participate in April are:

  • Offer a “Home Inventory Month Discount” on residential inventory services
  • Post information on social media, including the hashtags #HomeInventory and #NationalHomeInventoryMonth
  • Add “April is National Home Inventory Month” to your email signature line
  • Host an informational seminar or presentation
  • Participate in trade shows or vendor fairs in late March or April

The committee will reconvene in February to review what was accomplished last year and add any new ideas or efforts for this year’s National Home Inventory Month. If you would like to be on the committee this year, please send an email to the NICA officeand we’ll be in touch.

Complete information about this effort is here.

30 Nov 2018

Website Accessibility: The Plaintiff and the PDF

Mary GillenWe asked Mary Gillen, Associate Member and web developer for clients throughout the United States, to provide information for you, our readers, of the importance of having an ADA Accessible website. Her valuable information follows:

A few months ago, one of my clients called me…in a panic.

“We received an accessibility demand letter about our website. I know you have been warning us that we should make our website accessible for quite some time, but we didn’t listen. Please tell me what we have to do! The letter says we only have 10 days to comply before we are sued.”

Yep. It’s happening…more and more. The attack of the serial plaintiff.

REALITY: There are serial plaintiffs out there.

Businesses are being sued in alarming numbers! People who have disabilities are alleging that the websites they are visiting and/or mobile applications they are using are not accessible to them.

In 2017, more than 800 federal lawsuits were filled in response to web inaccessibility. And, there were more federal lawsuits filed in the first six months of 2018 (over 1000) than in all of 2017.

Your business could be at risk.

If you have a public-facing website (meaning if anyone on the planet can access your site), your online content needs to be accessible to folks who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or have hearing loss, have learning disabilities, experience cognitive limitations, have limited movement and speech disabilities, or photosensitivity.

And do you know what is causing one of the biggest problems with website content accessibility? PDF files!

REALITY: PDF content needs to be accessible, too.

Non-compliant PDFs is one of the most common accessibility complaints that plaintiffs have when filing suit.


Example One: One restaurant client had his menus in PDF format, and received a demand letter that complained that the plaintiff could not access the menu choices via an accessibility reader.

Example Two: Another client offered discount coupons in PDF format that were not accessible. Winn Dixie and Dunkin Donuts were also sued for not providing accessible discount coupons.

Example Three: A software company received a demand letter because they did not provide product information as accessible PDFs.


Have your website content tested now for accessibility. Having a fully-documented test can help you prove that you are working towards ADA compliance should you receive a demand letter.


Find out by visiting this website to learn about Mary Gillen’s accessible website services. Then either call 508-768-8418 or email her to discuss how you, too, can have an accessible website.

04 Jan 2018

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Yesterday TomorrowThe end of the year encourages people and organizations to assess their successes achieved, as well as look forward and plan for the coming year. As we look back, we are pleased with the changes that took place this past year. The most obvious change is the upgraded website, utilizing new options for layout and design. What isn’t apparent to most people, though, is the ADA compliance that we incorporated into the project. We are fortunate to have Mary Gillen as an Associate Member of NICA, as she is an excellent web developer and expert with ADA compliance. Knowing our site is accessible to everyone is a goal we are pleased to meet.

2017 brought improvements and positive changes for NICA:

  • Added 2 new courses to the curriculum
  • Developed a new website that is ADA compliant
  • Added 3 new Associate Members – Mary Gillen, Renovation Angel, and Nationwide Inventory Professionals. All 3 see the value in supporting NICA and have the desire to work with those in our industry.

Planning for 2018:

  • A committee will be researching the possibility of and ultimately submitting for a recognized National Home Inventory Day.
  • We will meet NICA’s educational goal of 2 new courses per year added to the curriculum for continuing education.
  • To help NICA provide you with the course topics you seek, please answer this one-question survey. Just click on this link to let your voice and choice be heard 

If you have any additional ideas or suggestions for NICA, please be sure to contact the office. We are here to serve you, our valued members.

09 Aug 2017

The Real Power of Accessible Websites: Not Just Compliance Protection, But Increased Business

A few years ago a colleague I respect named Gordon emailed a message to let me know he was having trouble reading the content of my-then-new website. I thought the website was well-designed and beautiful.

“Mary, I found the wide, column-to-column centered text difficult to read. I had a stroke 16 months ago and have narrow vision in my left eye and none in my right. I use margins to help me guide my one good eye. The only criticism might be a website with higher contrast menu links and short length content paragraphs.”

What a wake-up call for me…as it should be for all business owners who have websites. I was grateful Gordon emailed to tell me about the problems he was having understanding my site content.

How many other people with disabilities…dexterity, cognition or sensory issues…had a hard time using my website and simply hit the browser back button, never to return?

Is this happening to you? Do you know?


I have been developing websites since 1995. I eventually became familiar with 508 compliance…meaning all users, regardless of disability status, should be able to access your website content, be it text, video, podcasts, etc. For years I integrated the basic recommendations into the websites I designed. I thought it was enough. But there was something missing. Thanks to Gordon, I realized my website design/content was frustrating possible prospects and scaring away additional business. I needed to do more.

REALITY: Folks with disabilities are also professionals who have money to spend. 

According to Fifth Quadrant Analytics:

“The disability market represents 1.3 billion people globally who face challenges across three general areas—dexterity, cognition or sensory issues. Equivalent in size to the population of China, the disability market represents an annual disposable income of $1 trillion—and $544 billion in the US alone.”

That’s a lot of people…and a ton of disposable income.

REALITY: Accessibility makes good business sense.

Goodwill, smart business, and pending governmental regulation should compel organizations to make websites accessible to all potential customers.

If your website is designed to generate revenue, obtain email addresses for newsletter subscriptions, and invite prospects to fill out forms, accessibility compliance can help increase conversions because you have designed for all people.

Without a compliant web presence, you are frustrating possible prospects and losing business.


A little-known benefit of accessibility compliance is an SEO boost. Search engine optimization relies on web crawlers that read a website. These web crawlers have an easier time crawling sites that are accessible because they have a straightforward design, text-based versions of media, and clear descriptors. Their structure also allows crawlers to access and evaluate content more easily. As a result, websites are indexed more accurately and are more likely to appear as a relevant result in a web search.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the Internet.

These guidelines specify how to make content accessible, primarily for people with disabilities, but also for all user agents (also known as web browsers), including assistive technology devices.

So I dug in to the WCAG 2.0 A, AA & AAA specifications and studied. I created new layouts, tested HTML5 code, hammered on JavaScript and CSS3 stylesheets, figured out how to apply accessibility to code generated by content management systems like WordPress. All along testing what I had learned on all sorts of devices using online tools and assistive technology devices.

REALITY: Compliance laws are changing.

Until now, website accessibility hasn’t been a big concern for most business owners and marketers. But legislative changes are on the way. As of February 2018, The Department of Justice (DOJ) will take the position that websites offering goods or services to consumers are places of public accommodation and must be accessible to the disabled as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and its regulations do not specifically address websites. The DOJ, however, says that websites offering goods or services to consumers must be accessible by complying with guidelines from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 A & AA. Whether the DOJ will implement web accessibility standards is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” However, waiting until it’s the law may make your site legally vulnerable in the meantime if you aren’t in compliance, as organizations such as Winn Dixie, Chick-fil-A, Realtor.com, Peapod, Target, Reebok, and the NBA have already found out. All have already been sued for website accessibility non-compliance.

REALITY: What Disabilities Do You Have to Consider When Developing a Website?

Just as a brick ‘n mortar store has accessible wheelchair ramps and restrooms to accommodate folks with disabilities, a website should be able to serve all website content to those who want to access the informatio. Take into account these disability types your website design/content needs to serve:

Visual – blindness, impaired vision, color-blindness

— Blind people will need the content of the screen to be converted to text with available voiceover.
— Partially sighted people may require that the contrast be altered or use a screen reader to magnify it.
— Colorblind people will need the means to differentiate between colors.

Hearing – deafness and hard of hearing

— Deaf users need subtitles or sign language.
— People with impaired hearing would need a clearer and louder audio.

Motor – inability to use a mouse, slow response times, limited fine motor control.

— Those with impaired movement would need to use voice input or other input devices.

Cognitive – learning disabilities, poor or impaired memory, inability to focus on large amounts of information.

— Those with cognitive impairments would benefit from simple layouts, which are clear and consistent.


— Elements that use flashing light would need to be disabled by a user with epilepsy.

REALITY: If you are promoting your products and services via the web, you need an accessible website…now.

You might be hesitant to overhaul your website to be accessible because of the effort involved. However, undergoing an update can positively benefit your bottom line. When more people (and web crawlers) can access a website, the site can generate more business. Use website accessibility guidelines to increase your company’s reach. It is possible to meet the needs of more potential customers, regardless of disability, by improving the usability and accessibility of your website.

NEXT STEP: Have your existing website professionally tested for WCAG 2.0 A & AA accessibility.

Be sure you are provided with a full report and a series of checklists that you can provide to your web developer so your site can be fixed to fit compliance regulations.


Mary GillenMary Gillen is an Associate Member of NICA offering her services as a web developer of accessible responsive websites. Mary can provide a page-by-page accessibility audit of your website:

WCAG 2.0: 110 checkpoints covering A, AA and AAA W3 accessibility guidelines

Section 508: 15 US federal guidelines covered by 47 accessibility checkpoints.

Mary IDENTIFIES changes or updates that need to be made in order to comply with ADA Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 A, AA & AAA Guidelines. She provides you with a full report and a series of checklists that identify items on your website that need to be fixed in order to be compliant. These checklists will also guide your web developers on how to fix these accessibility issues. Mary also provides Website Remediation Services. Once testing is done, Mary can IMPLEMENT the necessary changes across your website to make it compliant. She will then run a final test to VALIDATE that the changes made meet accessibility requirements. She can then DEVELOP a customized plan for on-going accessibility monitoring and support.

Visit Mary’s AccessibleWebSiteServices.com <link: http://accessiblewebsiteservices.com> website to find out more.

24 May 2017

Have You Visited The New NICA Website Yet?

NICA website home pageWe’ve received a lot of positive feedback from members and would like to hear from you. If you haven’t visited the website yet, please do so. Mary Gillen created a site that met all the requests we received from members and the Website Committee. The site is responsive (adjusts to all sizes of devices) and meets the ADA Compliance requirements (Mary will share more about this in a future issue of our newsletter).

While you’re checking out the new website, please review your Directory listing to ensure your contact information and the link to your website are correct. The directory was highest on the list of requested improvements, so we are confident that you’ll be quite pleased with the new look.

Please also review the Certification Page, as we’ve streamlined the processes for applying for the Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS) and the Certified Appraisal Examiner (CAE) designations. The requirements to achieve these certifications are listed on this page as well.

What’s new? All applications are electronic, as we took into consideration that everyone’s schedule is quite busy. You can now apply for your designations via this online form – no need to send an email, request a form, wait for it to be emailed. etc. Additionally, when you have completed your 5 CEU requirement to renew your certification each calendar year, there is an online form for this as well. For all 3 applications, you just click on the button, complete the form, and click Submit. It’s that easy!