In the web community, we love our buzzwords, acronyms and frameworks, but one term in particular being constantly discussed is “web accessibility.”
Often, accessibility is lumped in with SEO practices and treated as a way to improve your Google search ranking (If you ain’t first, you’re last, amirite?). However, accessibility should be a main focus on its own. Sure it can improve your SEO, but the greater benefit far exceeds it.
But first, what exactly is web accessibility?
Web accessibility is a way of designing and developing your website so that it can be properly accessed and used by all people, especially individuals with disabilities. The 4 major disability categories are:
- Visually Impaired (blindness, low-vision, color-blind)
- Hearing Impaired (deafness, hard of hearing)
- Lack of Motor skills (inability to use the mouse, limited motor control, limited motor response time)
- Cognitive (learning disabilities, distractibility, inability to focus on large amounts of information)
Each of these people should be able to access and use your website in a meaningful way.
Now that you understand what web accessibility is, you can easily see why it is so important.
First and foremost, it is the right thing to do morally. Furthermore, if you are a school, university or government entity, it is the law that your website be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But as technology evolves and the use of the web becomes more ubiquitous in our daily lives, the laws regarding ADA compliance have also changed. It has been required for some time through the Americans with Disabilities Act that public places (businesses, stores, airports, etc.) be accessible to people with disabilities.
Well now that we live in an age where there are businesses that exist solely online without a brick and mortar location, can they also be considered a “place of public accommodation”? And are they subject to the same accessibility requirements?
The answer is “Yes.” While there have been a number of court cases involving this very issue, simply put, it is possible for a business that exists online to be sued for discrimination and/or violation of the ADA if their website is not accessible and available to be used by people with disabilities the same as it would be for those who are not disabled.
Although there is currently still much debate regarding the applicability of the ADA to the Internet, one thing is for sure: companies and organizations providing services via the Internet would be well advised to review the accessibility of their websites.
How do I make my website web accessible?
Without going deep into the HTML/back-end of adjustments you could make, here are some easy tips you can apply on your own:
- Avoid link titles like “Click Here Now!” Screen readers have been trained to use caution and avoid that type of link to prevent adware/malware situations.
- Provide closed captioning options on all videos for the hearing impaired.
- Make sure your buttons and menus are large enough to allow those who have trouble using a mouse, or individuals who use a mouth-stick stylus, to access everything on your site with relative ease.
These simple considerations can go a long way in making your site enjoyable to all who wish to visit it.