Accessibility is not optional

Some organizations are quite used to compliance requirements. Some never give compliance a second thought. But any business with more than 15 employees, higher education institution or government entity is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide a consistent, usable website experience for their disabled users. 

Yes, it’s a law. And enforcement is on the rise, with federal ADA Title III lawsuits in 2016 surging 37% over 2015. But in the 2010 U.S. Census, 56.7 million people, or 19% (!) of the population, reported having a disability. So, we believe that any entity that’s online should do their organization, site and potential customer a huge favor by ensuring that their website is instantly accessible to those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning or neurological disabilities. 

By following these four steps, you’re on the way to sticking to the law while doing the right thing for all. We’re such believers, we’ll even throw in our downloadable Accessibility Testing Guide to boot.

1. Run an audit

Google Accessibility offers Accessibility Developer Tools, which is a Google Chrome plug-in you can install to run an accessibility audit on any page of your site to identify major issues, or you can enter your page’s URL in WAVE to view all accessibility issues.

2. Determine what helpful and required information is missing

Screen readers and voice browsers rely on HTML tags and meta information to help users navigate your site and content. Download a free SEO spider tool like Screaming Frog, which will crawl your website and find each page, its status, title tags, headlines and more.

Every image on your site should also have an alt tag that is both meaningful and functional (for example, “Search” rather than “Magnifying Glass”). You can view any image’s alt tag by hovering over the image, or to find all image alt tags on a given page, install the Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar.

3. Make sure your website's text resizes

Most browsers give users the option to increase or decrease their default font size for greater readability. Using the browser of your choice, change your font settings to confirm that the type size on your pages changes.

4. Make sure your text is legible against the background color of your site

Color contrast (the difference between text color and the background color) can be an issue on many sites. For small text, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AA recommends a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For larger text (18 px or more), the contrast ratio must be at least 3:1. 

And be ready for maintaining an accessible website as it evolves. It’s a constant process to be revisited each time you create a new page or upload a new image, so it’s important to check the WCAG recommendations to ensure that anyone who wants to use your site can. 

No, it’s not a quick fix, and it's best achieved when considered, checked and rechecked throughout the web design process. It should really become a foundational philosophy of any website project. At KW2, there are dozens of steps taken throughout the process to ensure each website we create meets the needs of all users.  

Imagine you’re one of the 8.1 million Americans with difficulty seeing, or one of the 7.6 million people with difficulty hearing. (Try using your site with just a screen reader or just your keyboard without a mouse.) And with baby boomers booming, accessibility will become a bigger deal in the near future. If your site is not accessible, not easy to use and not easy to understand, you could be losing every fifth potential customer, student or user as they grow frustrated with the experience and leave AND you could face fines or risk a costly lawsuit. 

So, let everyone experience your great content. Just follow these steps. Go the extra mile and download KW2’s Accessibility checklist. Or contact us to learn more about making your site compliant. A lot of folks out there will be glad you did.