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A Good Reminder of the Importance of Web Accessibility

While online accessibility is increasingly being incorporated and discussed as a means to ensuring that digital experiences, information, and services can be used by the entire population, as we head into this new decade, it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves of why we need to ensure that it stays top of mind.

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web

As a marketer, part of my job is to identify and develop valuable content for our audiences, of which includes individuals with particular accessibility needs. That is why I am glad I had the opportunity to attend RespectAbility’s latest webinar, “How to Ensure Accessible Websites and Social Media” with Sharon Rosenblatt, Director of Communications at Accessibility Partners; Dan Mouyard, Front End Technical Architect here at Forum One; and, Tatiana Lee, Hollywood Inclusionist at RespectAbility. Here are some important reminders about online accessibility that I took away from the webinar.

Disabilities are more common than you think

As mentioned during the webinar, as reported by the CDC, 1 in 4 US adults (approximately 61 million people) live with a disability. These disabilities can be temporary or permanent, visible or nonvisible, and can be present from birth or acquired later in life.

This is important information to note for many reasons; however, the point that stood out to me the most is that this means possibly 25% of your audiences might be neglected if you’re not enforcing accessibility standards. This means that 1 in 4 of the people interested in your organization, cause, or work may not be getting the information they need to take engage and support your mission.

Another important statistic brought up in the webinar is that, 71% of people with disabilities leave a website immediately if it is not accessible. Beyond accessibility, we know that people decide to leave sites very quickly if they think they are not going to provide the answers they seek. Reasons include slow load times, unhelpful messaging, lackluster design, etc. So if your site isn’t accessible for those who need it, that 25% of the population is likely to also leave immediately and not come back.

Accessibility is not just good practice, it is the law

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers website accessibility requirements across a number of key areas, but most commonly we see legal implications around Title III which prohibits, “discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodation.” This includes accessible electronic and information technology.

In 2010, the department of Justice stated that, “websites that provide goods and services must be accessible to people with disabilities unless the goods and services are available in some other equivalent manner.” More recently, as mentioned during the webinar, we are seeing a greater focus on how the ADA applies to websites within new or revised regulations based on court decisions from lawsuits and settlements. This is important for the social sector to note because not only can an organization be held responsible in the eyes of the public, it can also be held responsible under the law.

It’s never too late to aim for accessibility

One of the most valuable things stated by the speakers, in my eyes, was simply to, “be accessible now.” Not only can you ensure you are following the law, but, that you welcome and include a significantly-greater portion of your current and future audiences.

A great way to do this is by following the World Wide Web Consortium’s WCAG 2.0 – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. US courts are using these guidelines as a global standard for following the law, and is a straigtht-forward way to make sure you are maintaining an accessible website.

Below are just a few accessibility design tips the speakers mentioned:

  • Use alternative text (“alt text”) for all image content
  • Ensure you are following proper color contrast standards
  • Provide descriptive links
  • Use an equivalent alternative to video and audio, e.g., closed captioning

The webinar is a great resource for those who are on the never-ending path of creating a better web and social media accessibility experience. To dig deeper into this, I recommend reviewing the accessible webinar slides (also: an accessible recording should be available soon).

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