Technology Series

Is Your Web Site Accessible?

Website accessibility

WEB SITE BUILD: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/DRAFTER123

In the complex rehab industry, you hear or use the term “accessibility” every day. As providers, clinicians and manufacturers, you aim to provide technology that will improve quality of life and physical environments for your customers — through seating, mobility and accessibility. But have you considered if your Web site is accessible to people with disabilities? Sure, you know about physical accessibility accommodations businesses make, such as accessible transportation, wheelchair ramps, elevators and so forth. But what about Web site accessibility?

Accessibility doesn’t just apply to our physical world; it also applies to the virtual world. Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of making Web sites available to everyone of all abilities and disabilities. Visual impairments, hearing loss and motor challenges can all affect the experience that a person has online. A poor user experience on your Web site can easily lead to a customer searching for a competitor instead. The good news is that since you are in the mobility industry, you are a few steps ahead. You already understand the issues people with disabilities face, the impact of accessibility, and why it important, since you are in the trenches with your clients every day. Now it’s time to implement solutions!

ADA Compliance and WCAG

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, before the Internet was widely used. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, indicating they intended to amend the language in Title III of the ADA to ensure it would also apply to Web site accessibility. Many businesses are being proactive by following the standards for Web accessibility set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). There are Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), set by W3C, that provide a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) submitted proposed 2.1 changes in January, with final updates expected this summer. This will provide a standard for what Web site owners should do to be as ADA compliant as possible.

Assistive Technology for Web Site Access

If your Web site is not designed mobile-first, accessibility from a smartphone or tablet becomes an issue for any user, regardless of their abilities. Remember, not everyone uses a desktop computer and the standard Chrome browser. In fact, today more Web visits come from mobile devices than traditional computing platforms. Screen readers, hands-free mouse tracking, switch activations, and sip-and-puff systems are some of the assistive technology devices that people with disabilities use to access or translate information on your Web site.

Common Web Site Accessibility Issues & Solutions

  • Images & Alt Tags
    When you hover your mouse over an image on your Web site, you should see an alt tag or Alternative Text. For people with visual impairments who use screen readers, the description on a photo’s alt tag helps them understand what image is displayed.
  • Content
    Consistent use of headers, avoiding ALL CAPS, and minimizing long sentences makes the content easier to understand for people who are using screen readers.
  • Color
    High-contrast colors such as a very light color on a dark background or a dark color on a light background are best. Avoid using green on red, or pastels on pastels, for users who are color blind and cannot distinguish the difference between specific colors.
  • Animation & Video
    Videos must provide a transcription or a link to the YouTube site that has a transcription available there. Subtitles on videos are also helpful. Flashing or strobing content should be avoided for people who have a risk of seizures.
  • Links
    Text in the links should make sense when read out of context by a screen reader. For instance, instead of a link that says “Click here,” the text should be descriptive, such as “Access the wheelchair seating guide.”
Website accessibility example

The image above shows a non-accessible Web site. If this page is opened with a screen reader, the user would only see/hear the title of the page and “IMG_4321.” The user would not receive any information about the music festival. This page is not accessible because it uses only an image to explain the information.

Website accessibility example

This accessible Web site shows content added to also explain the information, and with correctly used alt text. The user can understand exactly what is meant to be communicated, whether the image displays or not.

Finding a Web Agency for an Accessibility Audit

There may be some adjustments you can make on your own to make your current Web site more accessible. However, to make your Web site as ADA compliant as possible, I recommend finding a Web site agency that is versed and experienced in ADA compliance. An Accessibility Audit of your Web site will indicate where problem areas are and what steps are needed to make your Web site ADA compliant. The best time to address accessibility is when your Web site is in need of a redesign, since it will probably cost less to build an accessible Web site than to correct an inaccessible one.

Maintaining an Accessible Web Site

Of course, Web sites are not just designed and done; an effective Web site has new content added on a regular basis. So after your accessible Web site is designed, celebrate! But then be aware that the staff who are adding new content need to keep the accessibility standards in mind. For instance, new blog posts or product pages added should follow the same rules with alt tags, links, content structure, etc. Creating a comprehensive workflow with your staff or Web agency will ensure everyone is following the standards for ADA compliance as your Web site evolves.

How Our Agency Handles ADA Compliance

The Web agency I work at is always keeping an eye on the ever-changing landscape of online marketing, including Web accessibility, local search, mobile-first, new Facebook algorithm changes, and the like. ADA compliance is still a gray area, but we are watching closely as new standards emerge, since it’s becoming more of a priority for our clients. We use Wordpress for Web site design and have a special accessibility icon on the back end of our clients’ Web sites that reminds anyone editing the Web site that it’s been audited for accessibility. This ensures that as our staff or clients make changes to content, layout or design, they’re mindful of accessibility considerations.

Accessibility matters, not just for your brick-and-mortar office or clinic, but also for your online presence. Just like wheelchairs, the Internet is not a “one size fits all.” Let’s make sure the Web is not a barrier to people with disabilities, but a solution.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Jackie Kaufenberg is the Social Media Strategist at Vivid Image (www.vimm.com). In her previous work life, she was the marketing manager at EasyStand/Altimate Medical. She would love to hear from you at jackie@vimm.com or on LinkedIn.

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