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.
REALITY: SEO Benefit.
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.
WELCOME TO WCAG 2.0
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.
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 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.