An accessible website is fully compatible with assistive technology devices including screen readers, braille displays, screen magnifiers, and more. Accessible websites work seamlessly with these technologies to ensure that individuals with disabilities have full access to information, goods and services on the web.
Inaccessible websites can be difficult or impossible for assistive technology users to access, and can expose your business to legal liability in the form of an ADA lawsuit.
What is the trend towards Website Accessibility about?
Law firms are increasingly filing class action suits on behalf of disabled individuals throughout the United States who use the Internet to facilitate their access to goods and services. These individuals have disabilities that include: blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, mobility impairments, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.
What standards are available for website accessibility assessment?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to help website owners and developers meet the challenges of developing accessible web content for assistive technology users. Learn more about the WCAG: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ .
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are based on four basic principles of accessibility. These require websites to be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
Common Barriers to Website Accessibility
Properly designed websites and web tools can be used by people with disabilities. However, currently many sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for some people to use them. Below are just a few examples:
- Images missing alternate text – alternate text provides supplemental information about the context and content of images for blind users.
- Website navigation systems not usable with a keyboard only – screen reader users and people with motor impairments cannot use a mouse to navigate webpages. The WCAG requires that web page navigation systems be usable with a mouse only.
- Videos missing captions – synchronized captions are a text alternative for the audio track in a video or multimedia presentation. Captions allow deaf and hearing-impaired people to access the audio portion of video content.
- Webpages missing semantic structure – headings, lists, and other webpage markup are essential to help assistive technology users understand the structure of webpages.
One or more of these accessibility barriers could make your site difficult or impossible to use for people with disabilities. By removing barriers to accessibility, you can open your website to a much wider audience, attract new customers, and reduce exposure to legal liability.
Benefits of an Accessible Website
Accessible websites are fully compatible with assistive technology devices including: screen readers, braille displays, and text-only browsers. By making your website accessible to assistive technology users and people with disabilities, you will:
- Reduce exposure to legal liability. A website that works well with assistive technology devices is not a prime target for a Title III ADA lawsuit.
- Maintain compliance with state and federal accessibility guidelines (i.e. Section 508). Section 508 requires that organizations receiving federal funding provide equal access to information technology (i.e. websites).
- Improve performance in search engines. Accessible websites provide additional semantic information (alternate text, captions, etc.) that can be used by search engines to index and rank web pages.
- Reach a wider audience.
Why is website accessibility important?
Website accessibility is important for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies alike.