Website accessibility quietly lived alongside website usability for years until recent inclusive web design practices and giant leaps in computer technology made it possible for nearly everyone to use and enjoy the internet.
This upped the game for website designers and developers.
Now we must know how to make websites and mobile apps work for all kinds of people and all the ways they access the internet. Assistive devices such as screen readers, text to speech apps, audible books, mouse-less keyboard navigation and visual aids such as colors and font sizes are all tied to website accessibility design.
Corporations are already well aware of the rise in website ADA accessibility lawsuits. While not new, the spike in the number of lawsuits the past several years was a warning shot that unfortunately didn’t reach small business owners. Local businesses that sell products and services online are being sued because their websites can not be used by blind or sight impaired people.
Website barriers to entry have been misunderstood or ignored by website owners until they receive the shock of a written complaint by a law office.
We have known for years that optimizing web pages for accessibility provided an added boast for organic SEO practices, such as adding alt attributes to images or the proper use of header tags. And yet a vast amount of websites do not have alt attributes or properly ordered header tags. Both of these are tremendous aids for screen reader software.
A Word of Caution When Seeking Website Accessibility Help
Testing websites and software applications is a specialty performed by trained people who know what to look for and why. Free automated testing tools are helpful, but not equal in value. These tools may find 25% of the accessibility issues but the remaining 75% are only discovered by manual testing.
Formal accessibility testing by specialists provides feedback to see if your website violates Section 508 requirements in the USA, or legally enforceable accessibility requirements in countries such as the UK and Canada. In addition, specialists test for WCAG2.1 guidelines and compliance for websites and documents that must be accessible, such as PDF’s. For this, you need to hire someone trained in accessibility testing and remediation.
Accessibility testing is important for all computer devices, including mobile, as well as operating systems and browsers.
If you find yourself being sued by someone because your website is not accessible, please contact me. My partner, Jonathan Hochman, is an expert witness. I am certified in accessibility. Together we can guide you through the next steps.
For 2020, the best approach is to be prepared. Ask me to check your website to see if it is at risk of an ADA lawsuit. It is far less expensive to be prepared.
For additional information about website accessibility, I have written several articles. Here are few: