You may have already installed a handicap ramp and enlarged doorways to make premises accessible to all, but have you revamped your websites for the same reasons? Your existing website may be a barrier to those with disabilities, and the Department of Justice now interprets the Americans with Disabilities Act as applicable to websites. In fact, Title III of the ADA, is actively ensuring that new requirements include online properties, such as those websites. While final Federal regulations are still under determination, common sense guidelines should be undertaken now to avoid any issues.
Any business that has at least 15 full-time employees or is a place of public accommodation and is required to provide equal access to services, is covered by this law. Said businesses will now also be required to have websites designed to be accessible to individuals with hearing, vision or other physical disabilities. Businesses now need to consider every aspect of their web presence to provide access to all or be facing problems in the future.
Everyone should have equal access to websites, as this affects where we shop, learn, do our banking and where we socialize. This means you may need to provide alternatives to some functions of your site, such as easily resizable text with high contrast for the sight impaired, and videos to include audio descriptions for the hard of hearing. Having a text-only option that is accessible through a high-functionality keyboard, for those with mobility issues, may now also be required.
Some creditable ways to address these issues are to create ‘Alt Tags’ to allow users to read or hear your content, minimize distracting features, create videos for the hearing impaired, ID your website with larger headers, offer recommendations for better navigation and more clearly delineate links and menus.
Failure to comply with the ADA, may be costly and subject you to potential litigation. Failure of accessibility may also mean missing sales opportunities.
While current regulations may be a shade fuzzy, it’s best to get ahead of the curve on this. It also can potentially lead to a better business ranking for your website to create and maintain a web accessibility policy that is consistent with the prevailing standards of inclusiveness. These new standards apply not only to hiring practice, but to advancement, compensation and job training as well.
The fastest way to accomplish this site restructure is to contact a qualified web design agency and have them do an audit of your existing online properties. However, if you prefer to do it yourself, the ADA.gov website provides a detailed list of compliance guidelines. (Click here to view them). Best to get in front of these new issues now, avoid potential litigation, government penalties and also because it’s a good feeling to know that you have done what’s necessary to allow those with disabilities to access your site with the least amount of extra effort!