Accessibility and inclusivity are key to business today. Regulations are catching up, but for businesses, it’s more than just being compliant. Accessibility is about bringing your solutions and ideas to widest possible audience.
The internet has bridged the gap for many people who face challenges due to disabilities. Highly-effective screen-reader tools like JAWS help these individuals navigate the internet and online services with ease.
The rider is that, for these tools to work, websites need to be compliant with accessibility standards and norms. The Unruh and ADA acts dictate sure that all business website meet a basic level of accessibility compliance. Not being compliant can lead to legal proceedings against your firm and can also result in fines.
What does this mean for your business? You need to make sure you are compliant with these accessibility guidelines or you will have to deal with fines, lawsuits, or worse.
Achieving ADA and Unruh compliance is a lot easier than it sounds, though. Let’s take a deep dive and look at some of the steps you can take to ensure compliance and accessibility. This might get a bit technical, so hang on!
Does Your Code Parse Well?
Most visually challenged users rely on screen readers like JAWS to help them navigate websites. These screen readers work by parsing basic structures within your website’s HTML code and then interpreting them, also allows users to navigate your web content using audio cues. For JAWs to work, your website code needs to be in a format that screen readers can easily parse.
When coding your website, keep in mind the WCAG 2.1 guidelines issued by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). Make sure that you your code meets all the success criteria laid out there. Many code parsing issues are quite easy to fix: for instance, making sure you have proper headers and section names can help users navigate between content sections with ease.
Do you Have Alternatives to Audio and Video Content?
You need to pay special attention to audio and visual content when considering ADA and Unruh compliance. Visually and hearing-impaired users can have a tough time accessing this kind of content.
Make sure your videos have captions so that hearing-impaired users can consume them. Ideally, you’ll also want to have transcripts of your video available in text format. This can help visually-impaired users understand what you’re talking about. When it comes to audio content like podcasts, it’s again a great idea to make transcripts accessible. Hearing impaired users can read your video transcripts. Screen-reading software can read these transcripts aloud for visually-impaired users.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb to follow: Always make sure to implement alternate ways to access your audio-visual content. If you have a piece of audio or video content, it needs to be accompanied by an accessibility alternative.
Are You Using Alt Text Effectively?
It’s easy to dismiss alt text as those annoying boxes you leave out when uploading an image or a graphic. It plays a vital role in Unruh/ADA compliance, though: screen readers parse alt-text fields to help users navigate media content they aren’t otherwise able to access.
Alt text describes a piece of media so that visually-challenged users can what it says and what it’s for. If you are using infographics or short-form video, it’s a great idea to put the key highlights into the alt text field.
Make sure your alt text fields are descriptive, and not just a compliance check box. Remember that there are people out there relying on your alt text to understand what your website is trying to say. Images are critical to your website experience. That experience shouldn’t be lost on people with disabilities.
Are Your Content Timers Adjustable?
If you have content or media on your website with a timing element, you need to pay attention to these aspects to ensure accessibility. You need to provide users the ability to disable or adjust content timers to ensure that they can access content at their own pace. Screen readers take longer than normal to navigate through your webpage and having content that is timed can hinder the experience.
If you have content that autoplays, ensure that there is a way to pause, stop or hide this content. If you have content that changes over time, like sliders or carousels, give users the option to turn this off or to adjust the timings.
Test, Test, & Test!
Rigorous testing is perhaps the most critical element in ensuring compliance. You can test internally using your own IT resources or rely on third party applications and professionals to test your website thoroughly. Also, have people with disabilities actually test your website. They can offer you critical feedback on what works and what doesn’t from an accessibility perspective. Beyond mere compliance, testing can help you polish and refine the overall experience for users with disabilities.
Record your access progress on a regular basis too and make sure that you communicate your efforts as well as the steps you are taking towards compliance. This can be done through an accessibility statement on your website, updates on your newsletter, or a number of other ways. Talking about what you’re doing will help visitors understand the efforts you are taking towards compliance and accessibility, as well as reinforcing your commitment and responsibility.
FVG's Cutting-Edge Accessibility Widget
Flying V Group offers a state-of-the-art widget you can incorporate into the website to automate the accessibility compliance process, saving you valuable time and effort. On websites with multiple pages and a variety of content formats, keeping track of compliance can be a real challenge. The AI based Accessibility Widget makes this task easier for you.
The widget enables continuous compliance and compliance monitoring by fixing issues on the fly. The widget scans and automatically fixes a wide range of issues from broken headers, timed content, contrast, alt text, and more.
It seamlessly integrates with your CMS and works with your applications to ensure that you meet or exceed WCAG 2.1 standards at all times.
Compliance is a legal requirement. Beyond the legal paradigm, though, having an accessible website demonstrates your commitment towards inclusivity. With millions of Americans living today with with visual or hearing impairments, it also opens your business to a wider range of clients.
Being compliant is not an easy task. It requires planning and continuous, focused work effort. With compliant standards being updated from time to time, Unruh/ADA compliance is also something of a moving goal post.
Following the steps we talked about will help you get started on a comprehensive, long-term ADA/Unruh compliance regime. Flying V Group’s AI-based compliance widget, in particular, can help save time and money by automatically fixing most compliance issues. Talk to us today if you want more actionable advice!
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Robb Fahrion is a Co-Founder and Partner of Flying V Group. He is passionate about helping businesses grow using the power of the internet. Robb graduated from Chapman University in Orange, CA and currently resides in Costa Mesa, CA. Robb enjoys writing about digital marketing, helping his clients turn their dreams into reality, and he is a HUGE Mike Trout fan.