Creating an inclusive user experience: ADA-compliance and website design

It’s the end of a busy week and you’re looking forward to a relaxing Friday night. You get home from work, plop down on the couch, and log on to your favorite pizza place’s website. You can almost taste the pepperoni and extra cheese.

There’s just one problem: You can’t see — and the screen reader software you typically use to read Web content aloud can’t access the restaurant’s website. Unable to complete a transaction, you shut your laptop and go to plan B.

A real-life scenario like this one made headlines in 2016, when a blind person sued Domino’s Pizza  for failing to make online ordering accessible.

The plaintiff argued that because the website wasn’t optimized for screen-reading software, Domino’s was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Domino’s argued that because the ADA was written for brick-and-mortar businesses, the rules didn’t apply to websites. The court reasoned that because the customer couldn’t access a physical product from the digital site, the plaintiff had grounds.

While the case is still in the courts, it has shined a much-needed spotlight on the challenges people with disabilities face when doing business on the Web.

Whether you’re committed to creating an inclusive experience or concerned about compliance (and most likely it’s a combination of both), Web accessibility is important to your business and your customers.

What defines accessibility?

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) organizes the standards for accessibility around four main pillars:

  • Perceivable: All content must be accessible to one or more of a person’s senses.
  • Operable: Users must be able to navigate and interact with the content, without the use of a mouse.
  • Understandable: Users must be able to understand both the content of the site and how to operate it.
  • Robust: Content must be substantial enough that assistive technologies and other user agents can access it.

The bottom line is a website must be designed in such a way that an individual, with or without assistive technology, can access the functionality and content (including PDF downloads) on the site and partake in the business’s offerings unhindered.

How can you be sure your site is accessible?

Whether addressing visual, cognitive, auditory, motor or speech related disabilities, a number of potential barriers to accessibility arise when designing a site. Images, PDFs, color and font settings, and video captioning are just a few of the components to consider. The ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for state and local governments elaborates on how these and other elements can be optimized for accessibility.

For sites that are already up and running, it’s possible to run a diagnostic test using accessibility checker software. The options for diagnostic tools are plentiful, and it’s a good idea to vet the source. W3C’s comprehensive list is a great place to start.

With 61 million American adults living with a disability, creating an accessible site is necessary for your customers, good for your business and the right thing to do. Whether you’re planning a new site or looking to improve accessibility on your existing platform, we can help you find the right solutions to create a fully inclusive user experience for clients.

Need more information or advice on how to optimize your digital property?  Call a Crossbow Group archer today.

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