“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
— Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website accessibility lawsuits are appearing in the news more than ever before. We’ve seen large corporations, colleges, musicians, small businesses, and more involved in these recent suits. They claim that their websites aren’t accessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology. And, legal experts predict that the number of lawsuits will continue to rise in 2019.
With so many lawsuits, businesses might be nervous about their own sites. Some companies are taking extreme measures like removing all downloadable content. Some are even shutting websites down altogether. This attempt to avoid a lawsuit could’ve been averted with some planning. Also, steps like these are too little too late.
What’s a company to do?
Removing content or your entire website isn’t going to help your company. And, in the 21st century, it’s not considered a solid business practice. However, there’s an alternative for people struggling with ADA compliance.
First, you’ll want to understand all accessibility laws. This knowledge will better prepare you to make an accessibility plan. It’ll also help you properly convey your plan to the team involved in keeping your website accessible.
Next, you should review how your company manages ADA-related requests. Hint: If you don’t receive any requests, it might actually mean your company lacks compliance because people may be unable to make requests. This also puts your organization at risk for an ADA violation.
Once you understand the ADA basics and how your company handles them, you’ll be equipped to form a plan and timeline for accessibility.
Your Accessibility Plan
A well-thought-out plan shows awareness of potential issues and a strong effort to be ADA compliant.
Did you know that businesses must provide alternative formats to printed materials when a customer requests them? As part of your plan, you’ll need to have a way to provide alternatives to your standard print documents. The ADA says that these compliant alternatives are braille, large print, and audio. You’ll want to make sure there’s an easy way for your customers to request these formats on your website.
Also, you’ll need to design an accessibility statement that’ll be available on your website. This statement should include information such as your commitment to follow all federal, state, and local laws. It should also include the name of your company’s assigned ADA Compliance Coordinator. And, it’s important to have contact information in your statement. You should have the contact information for both your ADA Compliance Coordinator and a way for requesting ADA compliant materials and services.
Help assistive technology understand your site
Next, you’ll want to decide how you’ll remediate all of your website’s downloadable content so it’s ADA compliant and accessible. You’ll want to plan for ways to keep any future downloadable content accessible, too. We recommend hiring professionals to handle this. They’ll quickly and accurately remediate your documents and provide a better experience to your customers using assistive technology. We also suggest that you keep the original content on your website while it’s being remediated. Offer a hard-copy alternative in the meantime. But, be sure to swap out inaccessible files for their accessible counterparts as soon as possible.
Lastly, you’ll need to optimize your website so it’s accessible to anyone who visits. Though the Department of Justice (DOJ) hasn’t defined rules for making websites accessible, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides an excellent roadmap for you. Following these guidelines makes your overall website experience better for all of your customers; not just those using assistive technology. A team of professionals is also the best way to accomplish this. They’ll review your website, provide a detailed analysis of the issues and offer solutions.
Having a website that everyone can access and enjoy is a great perk in itself. But, there are other benefits to having an ADA compliant website.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) best sums it up: “There is also a strong business case for accessibility. Accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile web design, device independence, multi-modal interaction, usability, design for older users, and search engine optimization (SEO). Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits.“
This means every user will have a better overall experience when interacting with your website. You’ll also rank better with search engines like Google and Bing. And, by providing an accessible website, you’ll reach a market segment that accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in spending power each year. Lastly, since accessible websites have reduced maintenance costs, you’ll have more money to grow your business. All of these are excellent perks that benefit your company.
Now is the Time
With a little bit of understanding, wisdom, and empathy, you’ll be on your way to providing a website that everyone can enjoy. Now that you know, it’s time to create a plan for the best online customer experience possible!
This post was written by Jessica Sanders
Originally published at brailleworks.com on February 7, 2019.