After years of confusion and unhappiness in your career path, you finally found your passion. You opened up your first burger joint and it does so well in its first few years that you decide to franchise it. Fast-forward 20 years and your franchise has grown to over a thousand locations—your life became everything you’ve ever wanted. You owned a successful business that generates a steady income to support yourself and your loved ones. Nothing can go wrong, right?
One day, you got a phone call from a lawyer to find out that your big, successful franchise has been slapped with a lawsuit. Your company’s website lacked accessible features for people with disabilities. Just like that, all your success got poured into lawyers and settlements and your company’s reputation was damaged. Your hard work ruined because of something that could have been avoided with proper web development. Only if you knew about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 you could have potentially avoided this costly error. WCAG defines how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.
Since 2015, there have been 53 website accessibility cases filed against businesses and city/county websites. This is just the beginning. One of the biggest and most recent cases was filed here in South Florida, Gil v. Winn-Dixie. While the plaintiff was not awarded any amount in damages, legal fees have been requested making Winn-Dixie responsible for costs on both sides, accumulating to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How Does The American Disabilities Act Affect Websites?
Since 1990, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place to enforce accommodation in all public places (i.e. schools, office buildings, restaurants, retailers, etc.) to those with disabilities. With these accommodations, people with disabilities are able to attend and participate in all public places with full understanding and ability to interact. However, in recent years, the Internet has become the most public place of all. With the rise of social media and online shopping, a physical destination has been replaced with “add to cart” and “overnight shipping” buttons, accompanied with thriving online communities such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The continuing development and success of online platforms is now garnering attention from lawyers who are actively searching for and suing websites that do not follow Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
The ultimate purpose of website accessibility is to ensure and enable the use of the Internet by people with all kinds of disabilities, so they can perceive, navigate, interact, and contribute. These benefits also aid others, for example, older people who are going through changes due to aging.
Quick and Easy Website Accessibility Changes You Can Make
While it might sound like a hassle to make sure your website checks all the boxes for web accessibility, some of the changes are simple enough to do yourself.
- Get your website audited. There are services available for a website audit, in which it will tell you exactly what you need to fix in order to have a fully functioning, fully-accessible website.
- Add a text/caption equivalent to every image. People who suffer with blindness or poor vision often have software in place that reads back the text on the screen. However, the software is obviously unable to read graphic images, which creates a barrier for their disability. By adding text—a descriptive caption—to every image, this barrier can easily be avoided .
- Post documents in text-based format. Most state and local governments post documents on their website in PDF format, which unfortunately is unable to be read by screen readers. An easy solution to this is to post documents in alternative formats, which are compatible to screen readers (i.e. HTML, DOCX).
- Add audio descriptions and captions in multimedia. Videos should be made accessible to everyone as well. Just as you would include closed captioning for a viewer who is hard of hearing or deaf, you should add an audio transcription for people with low vision or blindness. Videos would require more in-depth descriptions.
Find more tips here.
Website Accessibility Changes Your Web Development Agency Can Make
If you or your team is not as experienced in web development and design, here are some changes your digital marketing agency should make.
- All interactive elements should be accessible by keyboard. This is particularly important when developing vital, interactive elements of a website (i.e. menus, mouseover information, etc .).
- All interactive elements should be easy to identify. Stay consistent with appearance of interactive elements, so they are easy to find.
- Make sure coding corresponds with reading order. The coding should match the logical order of the web page presented in order to ensure a coherent reading.
- Identify language changes in text.
- Use both colors and symbols when presenting information. People often use color to identify any change or convey information, but that can be a problem for people who are colorblind.
Need Help With Website Accessibility Guidelines?
Need more help? Visit WC3 for design and development tips or take advantage of our free website accessibility compliance evaluation. At no cost, we’ll identify different areas of your site that should comply with the latest WCAG guidelines. We’re cool like that. Contact us or drop us a line at 561-674-0757 to get started.