A step-by-step guide on making your website accessible
The following explanation of website accessibility is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on the subject matter. We disclaim any liability for the actions you take or fail to take based on this information. This information contains resourceful links of which we are not responsible for such links' privacy practices.
Accessibility, as it pertains to websites, is a website that is designed in such a way that people with disabilities can use them with ease as opposed to a website that is not accessible to people with disabilities. A non-accessible website is one that makes it hard or impossible for people with disabilities to navigate or use. In order to comply with legislation, be inclusive for everyone, and attract new customers, many company websites need to be up to date with the American Disabilities Act. Below is a guide to must-haves for your website in order to meet these requirements.
What ADA Compliance Looks like:
As you look through the internet, you may find on some websites there is a blue person icon in the bottom left or right corner of your screen. This icon indicates that the website has an Accessibility plugin. An example of a fully accessible website can be found here: https://greatmatter.com/
On the contrary, some sites may be accessible but don't have the plugin but are close to being compliant; an example of this is: https://www.walmart.com/
Lastly, there are sites that are non-compliant at all, and they do exist but are very difficult to find. Still, elements on these sites have non-descriptive alt text, a menu that is not keyboard navigable, has confusing flow to the site, poor contrast on images or text, and weak text H tag structure.
Good SEO and Design = More Accessible:
As listed in the previous section, a weak H tag structure can make a site less accessible. With this in mind, a sound designer and SEO specialist can build accessibility when creating your site, alleviating future issues. Depending on how customized your site is, most website editors like Wix and WordPress have some built-in accessibility. Still, it doesn't cover everything, like ensuring your H structure is correct and progressive.
ADA For Websites (Compliance):
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that you, as a business, if classified as one of the five titles of ADA (Read more here: https://www.ada.gov/resources/disability-rights-guide/), must provide equal access to people with disabilities. This has been the standard for physical locations but is now becoming more common in digital locations (websites), given the digital world we live in. Currently, there is a grey area in the legality of what you must do to make a website legally accessible. You can do some things, regardless of your business classification, to make your website more accessible to your current and potential customers, all while remaining within your means, especially if you are a small business.
WCAG And Accessibility Statement:
As it stands, those who fall under the Title of ADA are expected to provide reasonable accommodations for their websites. Reasonable accommodations are guided by the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Regardless of your classification and how your website was designed or created, you must work towards having an accessible website. The first step is to make an accessibility statement and put it on your site. It is commonplace to place a link to your statement in the footer at the bottom of the site. If you need to create an Accessibility statement, the Web Accessibility Initiative has created a form that, once filled, will provide you with an accessibility statement:(https://www.w3.org/WAI/planning/statements/generator/#create).
Plugins/Add-ons To Your Site:
If you want your site to be even more accessible than it currently is, but may not have the budget, look into free versions of add-ons/plugins on your website. Accessibe and Userway are prominent in this field. They may have a free version of their plugin for your website, which helps your site cater to many different disabilities with the click of a button without having to program. Both of those apps also have paid versions if you are interested in being more certifiably WCAG Compliant.
Consequences of Non-Accessible Websites:
The consequence of having a non-accessible website is litigation against your business. A site that is not accessible is a ticking timebomb, and there are easy steps to alleviate the possibility that your business gets sued or has to go to court and pay costly fines and lawyer fees. Fret not; the information above can get you on the right track and make this less of a possibility, all while broadening your audience and building a trustworthy brand.
As previously stated, there are some very cost-effective ways to work towards ADA compliance. The first step to doing so is to create an accessibility statement that states your intentions and shows you are working towards compliance rather than not doing anything. The next step is to acquire a plugin that covers many of the issues on a site. Lastly, if you have the budget, it is best to have your website accessibility reviewed, which may lead to some design and SEO adjustments.
If you are interested in making your website accessible or need additional assistance, DDRC Marketing is here is help. Feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by giving us a call at 541-605-0650.