“Websites for all”: It’s more than just a Throwaway Slogan

Written by: Phillip Nones

It’s a truism that everyone should be able to use any website. But that doesn’t mean everyone has had equal easy access. Any number of vision, hearing, motor skills or other conditions can affect website accessibility.

And while the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t issued explicit regulations on website accessibility, U.S. courts have consistently ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires commercial websites to be accessible for visually impaired users.

What are the chances that your company might be targeted on that basis? The number of ADA Title III lawsuits filed charging discrimination on the basis of disability more than doubled between 2015 and 2018 – and much of the increase was over website accessibility factors.

Helpfully, there are ways to make your website accessible. They tap into the possibilities opened up by “assistive technologies,” such as screen readers that vocalize the text on each web page as well as speech recognition software that converts speech into text. But you have to program your site to accommodate these aids. Here are several actions you can take:

  • Add alt-text to all images–these descriptions are for the benefit of people who have turned images “off,” but alt-tags are also accessed by screen readers to describe the image.
  • Choose colors carefully – it’s more nuanced than just a “color-blind” issue; it’s ensuring that you
    have sufficient contrast for viewers to distinguish between various elements on the page.
  • Design forms for accessibility – best practices here include making sure each field is clearly labeled while also placing labels adjacent to their respective fields. This will ensure that screen readers can do their job properly.
  • Make your site keyboard-friendly – enabling all web functions to work without the need for a mouse.

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