How Does It Help To Make Digital Things Accessible?
Would you make changes to your website that would help more than a quarter of your visitors? It should be easy, right? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 26% of American adults have a disability, and many of these disabilities affect how people use digital content.
By using the best practices for digital accessibility, businesses may improve the user experience for people with disabilities. They may also get other benefits that can help their bottom line.
What Does Digital Accessibility Mean?
Simply put, digital accessibility is a part of a website or app that makes it easy for people with disabilities to use. Accessibility best practices make it easier for people with disabilities to use digital domains, just like wheelchair ramps and Braille signs make it easier for some people to get into, move around in, and use physical spaces.
What Does Digital Accessibility Need?
Most discussions about accessibility, from a legal and compliance point of view, center on Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the operation of places of public accommodation.” How this rule should be used for digital properties is still being talked about. The ADA does apply to websites and mobile apps that connect customers to the goods and services of places of public accommodation. This was recently confirmed by a circuit court.
Most people think that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the best advice on how to make websites and apps accessible. The digital accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium created WCAG to make a standard for the accessibility of web content that could be used by everyone.
Accessibility includes visual, auditory, verbal, cognitive, neurological, and physical impairments that can make it hard for a user to use digital resources. Here are some examples of how best practices can be used in each of these areas:
To help screen readers, give images alternative text and arrange headers in a way that makes sense.
Closed captions and transcripts of audio and video information should be included.
Give ways to contact you besides the phone and other ways to enter information besides speaking.
Cognitive and Neurological
Make it easier for people to learn how to use navigation and page layouts.
Let people who don’t have a mouse use the keyboard to enter information.
What Are the Benefits For Businesses of Digital Accessibility?
It’s the right thing to do to make your websites and apps accessible, which is the most obvious reason. People with disabilities should be able to use online services and content just like everyone else. Accessibility is a socially inclusive act that removes barriers and makes it possible for all users to interact with your business in a good way.
Accessibility can also change how your customers, potential customers, and staff see your business. People like to support companies that promise to do what’s best for society. This is called “corporate social responsibility.” Users, both with and without disabilities, are more likely to like your brand if they see that you’ve taken steps to remove barriers and make the experience pleasant for everyone.
Digital Accessibility Helps People From All Walks of Life
Accessibility best practices can help all users, not just those who have disabilities that won’t go away. When was the last time you went to the gym and watched TV with closed captioning on the treadmill? This is just one example of a feature that was made to help people with disabilities but also helps a wider group of people. Accessibility is also helpful for people who have temporary or situational limitations.
Think about having only one arm. This could be because of a disability, a broken arm, or holding a newborn baby. Visual aids could help people who have cataracts or who are just not paying attention while driving. Closed captioning could be the biggest benefit for people who have trouble hearing. Almost everyone can benefit at some point or another from being able to read instead of just hearing.
There are many ways you might use accessibility features every day and not even know it. The more we try to make everyone feel welcome, the better it will be for everyone. Not to mention that people with disabilities will have the same access to media as people who don’t have disabilities. It works out well for everyone.
What Does the Law Say?
As of the time this article was written, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) had not explicitly updated ADA standards to cover digital accessibility. Instead, the DOJ stuck to its long-held position that the ADA covers digital accessibility.
But other laws could be looked at from the point of view of how easy they are to use online. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 says that federal departments and agencies must try in good faith to provide information in ways that people with disabilities can also use. If they can’t do that, they have to give people with disabilities another way to get to the data and information that those information systems offer. Access must be the same for people with and without disabilities.
The Communications Act of 1934 was changed in 2010 to include the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CCVA). This law adds new rules to make sure that people with disabilities can use modern technologies. Title I of the law sets accessibility standards for “advanced” telecommunications products and services. Title II of the law sets accessibility requirements for TVs, TV services, TV content, and streaming video.
Directive (EU) 2016/2102, which went into effect in 2016 and made accessibility standards the same across the EU, gave the European Union its own laws. A directive is a piece of EU law that says what the end goal should be but leaves it up to the member states to decide how to get there.
Accessibility is at the center of a global movement that is changing what people expect. As you read this, big companies like Microsoft are making improvements that are at the cutting edge of their fields. Facebook added new tools, like font sizes that can be changed and better interaction with screen readers, to make its content more accessible. Twitter, meanwhile, set up an Accessibility Center of Excellence to work with groups from different business areas to make the platform more accessible.
If you’re worried that your business won’t be able to keep up in the area of accessibility, contact QualityLogic to find out how their services can help you do better. A specialist can look at your current tools for free and tell you what you can do to improve your services. Visit www.qualitylogic.com to learn more.