When you launch a new business or startup, one of the most exciting and creative tasks at hand, is that of building your very own website. You know the style and look that would favor your business and you think of including exciting features such as multi-media solutions, but one thing you should not neglect, is website accessibility.
The Law and Statistics on Website Accessibility
Currently, the law is an a standstill regarding the precise stipulations to be required of all websites. In January, 2017, the federal government showed signs of adopting a set of standards called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA, but so far, the current administration has yet to put them into place. Courts have also been divided on the matter, with some stating that the American Disabilities Act (ADA), created to ensure that the disabled do not suffer discrimination, does apply to websites, and others deeming that it does not. Rather than waiting to see what lies ahead, however, it makes sense to opt for an access-for-all website from the word go.
In the United States, around 56.7 million people – that is 19% of the population – have a disability. Giving these people the tools they need to work, live and enjoy their lives, is a matter of corporate responsibility. Very few visually impaired people, for instance, have graduate degrees yet over 40% of them are part of the workforce. By making resources, services, and information more available to all web user, we can help balance out existing inequalities. From a practically perspective, we do know that the ADA regulations will eventually move forward. Therefore, it is better to be up to standard from day one.
Where to Begin?
WAVE Chrome Extension will be very helpful at identifying accessibility problems in your site. You can also have a look at WCAG 2.0 to see some of the most important considerations and make sure that your site works as well on mobile devices, since for many web users, mobile is the main point of online access.
Web accessibility involves having specific users in mind and catering content to them. For instance, the hearing impaired will benefit when you provide text alternatives for any content provided in video or sound – if you can, it would be fantastic to have sign language included in your videos. Many people with vision issues, meanwhile, use are screen readers, which provide a clear text alternative to images. Use an ALT tag so the readers can do their job. Text should be large, clear and uncluttered; preferably, use black text on a white or light hued background. Also, be sensitive to color blindness, avoiding the use of blue/green/yellow colors to denote different choices.
A third group to keep in mind are persons with epilepsy; use flashing imagery and saturated reds little or forego them altogether; any image that flashes over three times per second can actually trigger a seizure. Finally, keep those with cognitive impairments in mind; don’t make it hard on them by setting time limits on your content, always provide clear heading and subheadings and let them easily access the structure of your web, to make it easier to find that they are looking for.
Designing a truly accessible web page is a challenging goal, but one that is definitely achievable when you rely on the right team, take time to research into the needs of various disabilities, and make changes as you go along.