Website Accessibility For All—Is Your Company ADA Compliant?

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Monday, March 11th, 2019 at 4:15 pm by Maddalena DeSimone

What do Core Power Yoga, the Honey Backed Ham Company and Camp Bow Wow Franchising all share in common? All three are recipients of complaints challenging existing website accessibility measures for the blind. While the motivations behind such lawsuits have invited controversy from those labeling them as “drive-by lawsuits,” pursued by self-interested lawyers chasing payouts, the underlying criticism is simple: businesses’ websites need to be more accessible to those who cannot see.

As the digital space ekes out more and more territory, those unable to navigate its contours face ever growing obstacles in daily activities from homework assignments to dating. When online shopping, photos without accompanying descriptive text make it impossible for some individuals to ascertain key details like shape and color of products.

What about the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)? Title III of the 28-year-old law prohibits companies from discriminating against the disabled “in the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations.” But while most courts have interpreted such places of public accommodation to include websites connected to physical business, defense lawyers complain that compliance with the law is not as clear cut. Making matters worse, the Department of Justice failed to follow through with its intention of setting website-access guidelines in 2010.

Current Targets

Disability advocates filed an upwards of 2,250 website accessibility cases under Title III of the ADA in federal courts last year. One fifth of these suits were against companies that were already sued including Sherwin-Williams Co., and Forever 21 Inc. According to a survey conducted by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, this count has almost tripled since 2017, with New York and Florida as the busiest jurisdictions.

A slew of art galleries with names beginning with the letter “A” were recently sued last December by a blind Manhattan resident who claimed their websites were not equally accessible to all. “B” through “Z” galleries followed suit in short order, with more than 75 galleries across New York hit in total.

In neighboring Queens, a blind man sued Playboy.com alleging website incompatibility with his screen reading software and a lack of “text equivalent for every non-text element” precluding him from enjoying the site’s centerfolds. Playboy.com chose to fight the suit, maintain that it is “not obligated by law or otherwise to implement any policies or procedures demanded in the complaint.” Fighting back is a rare course for companies to take; most settle for $20,000 or less in attorneys’ fees plus costs, and an agreement to improve websites within two years.

Steps that Companies Can Take to Avoid Lawsuits

Despite no clear guidelines to safeguard against website accessibility lawsuits, companies may avoid these suits by taking any of the following measures:

First, companies can provide narrated descriptions of screen content or enhance website compatibility with separate tools. According to the Wall Street Journal, complaints describe roadblocks encountered when visually impaired people use “screen reader” tools to read aloud websites (imagine expecting a translation and only hearing “image” instead). Fixing these screen reader roadblocks can cost anywhere from several thousand to several hundred thousand dollars.

Second, they could ensure website compatibility with a device that converts text to Braille. In 2017, a team of undergraduate women from MIT came up with a portable device that converts text to Braille in real time during an MIT hackathon competition. The team hopes to sell the latest iteration of the prototype—the Tactile—at a maximum cost of $200.

Third, they may follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines used by Federal government websites. For example, Guideline 1.1 recommends the provision of “text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.” A suggested advisory technique for audio-only files specifically is the provision of sign language videos.

And finally, they should avoid purely visual interfaces outright. A blind woman recently sued Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood Entertainment, in a class action under the ADA asserting that the website’s “exclusively visual interface” denied visually impaired users equal access to the site’s product and services offerings.

 Conclusion

Although the American Disabilities Act has been around for decades, accessibility is an afterthought for many companies when designing sites and apps. Until this afterthought comes to the fore and companies start following steps such as the ones articulated in this post, or the Department of Justice promulgates clear guidelines, companies should continue to expect lawsuits. While art galleries and picture-heavy magazines may seem to be peculiar targets, Georgina Kleege, a lecturer at the University California Berkeley reminds us that blindness is not “monolithic” and “even people who are born totally blind live in a visual culture.”

Working on a website can be difficult. Adding new media and updating pages is chore, even though you know your company website needs to evolve and become more accessible to the many users you are trying to reach. Maybe when you first built it, accessibility wasn’t even really discussed. But now you’ve taken a step back, looked at your customer base with a desire to include everyone and you’ve realized just how important it is to make your site accessible. However, the thought of building a robust site that can do all the things you want it to do is overwhelming.

What is Web Accessibility

A practice of designing and coding the website in order to provide complete compatibility in accessing it by people with disabilities. In addition, it is a way to improve search engine optimization only an ADA Compliant Web Designer will help you to make your website Compliant. Is your website compatible? By going through the checklist below, you can get the answer.

Assessing Current Web Pages and Content

  • The website must include a feature like a navigation link at the top of the page. These links have a bypass mechanism such as a “skip navigation” link. This feature directs screen readers to bypass the row of navigation links and start at the web page content. It is beneficial for people who use screen readers to avoid to listen to all the links each time they jump to a new page.
  • All the links should be understandable when taken out of the context. For example, images without alternative text and links without worded as “click here”.
  • All the graphics, maps, images, and other non-text content must provide text alternatives through the alt attribute, a hidden/visible long description.
  • All the documents posted on the website should available in HTML or another accessible text-based format. It is also applicable to other formats like Portable Document Format (PDF).
  • The online forms on the website should be structured so assistive technology can identify, describe and operate the controls and inputs. By doing this, people with disabilities can review and submit the forms.
  • If the website has online forms, the drop-down list should describe the information instead of displaying a response option. For instance, “Your Age” instead of “18-25”.
  • If the website has data charts and tables, they should be structured so that all data cells are associated with column and row identifiers.
  • All the video files on the website must have audio descriptions (if necessary). This is for the convenience of blind people or for having a visual impairment disability.
  • All the video files on the website must have synchronized captions. People with hearing problems or deaf can access these files conveniently.
  • All the audio files on the website should have synchronized captions to provide access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • All web pages should be designed so that they can be viewed using visitors’ web browser and operating system settings for color and font.

About Website Accessibility Policy and Procedures

  • One must have a written policy on website accessibility.
  • The website accessibility policy must be posted on the website at a location where it can be easily found.
  • The procedure should be developed to ensure that content is not added to the website until it has been made accessible.
  • It should be confirmed that the website manager has checked the code and structure of all new web pages before they are posted.
  • While adding the PDFs to the website, these should be accessible. Also, the text-based versions of the documents should be accessible at the same time as PDF versions.
  • Make sure that the in-house and contractor staff has received the information about the website accessibility policy and procedure to confirm the website accessibility.
  • It should be confirmed that in-house and contractor staff has received appropriate training on how to ensure the accessibility of the website.
  • The website should have a specific written plan if it contains inaccessible content. Also, it should include timeframes in place to make all of the existing web content accessible.
  • A complete plan to improve website accessibility should be posted along with invited suggestions for improvement.
  • The homepage should include easily locatable information that includes contact details like telephone number and email address. This is useful for reporting website accessibility problems and requesting accessibility services with information.
  • A website should have procedures in place to assure a quick response to the visitors with disabilities who have difficulty in accessing information or services available on the website.
  • Feedback from people who use a variety of assistive technologies is helpful in ensuring website accessibility. So make sure to ask disability groups representing people to provide feedback on the accessibility of your website.
  • Testing the website using a product available on the internet is helpful, These tools are of free cost and check the accessibility of a website. They may not identify all accessibility issues and flag issues that are not accessibility problems. However, these are, nonetheless, a helpful way to improve website accessibility.

Checklist of Action Items for Improving the Accessibility of a Website

In addition, while considering the above suggestions, the following checklist initially prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Federal Agencies provides further guidelines on ways to make websites more accessible for persons with disabilities.

This practical advice, as well as another checklist, are available at:

Satisfying all of these items does not necessarily mean that a website complies with ADA, but it will improve the website’s accessibility and decrease the risk of litigation. Again, an Expert or Web Accessibility Consulting & Services provider should be engaged to conduct a comprehensive review of your website.
Nothing brings you closer to reality than actually facing it. This is the premise of my latest attempt to spread awareness about Web Accessibility.
For better understand, here is a link in which a practical example is shown to make the websites’ user experience better by following the guidelines. Also, it tells the issues affecting various users on the internet with solutions.
You can make your website ADA compliant in an easy way by consulting the professionals, who can do this job effortlessly. Also, you can get a quick website audit from To Be ADA Compliant that offers complete web accessibility consulting & services in California, USA.

Resource: https://dev.to/chinchang/an-interactive-and-practical-introduction-to-web-accessibility-22o1