Accessibility is a big deal, so much so that lawsuits surrounding accessibility for disabled internet users have soared through the roof, with more than 11,000 cases filed in 2019 alone. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that websites must be free of barriers that could make it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to use if they want to be ADA-compliant.
This means that website accessibility matters to anyone and everyone that sells a product or service online. Website owners have a legal responsibility to get it right when it comes to accessibility. Since the Internet drives the world, accessibility is both a moral and a financial obligation.
It is estimated that one billion people, 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. That’s a massive potential market you might be missing out on because even though technology can make the lives of disabled individuals easier, a lot of them are less likely to use it, primarily due to a lack of accessibility.
Building a Site for Accessibility
Accessibility doesn’t work like pixie dust and can’t just be sprinkled on top of pre-existing systems to make them more accessible. These features must be designed with purpose and as part of the website’s backbone. Here are a few ways to get started:
Allow users to disable video content.
Video and GIF content can easily trigger seizures in epileptic users, which is why it makes sense to allow your users to turn this feature off. Ensure that the loaded gun (autoplay videos on your page) isn’t an issue by using opt-ins for video and animated content. The user should be able to decide if they want to see the video or not.
Create captions and transcripts, and interpretations for video content.
Just like certain video content can cause seizures in epileptic users, it can be problematic for deaf users. Keep in mind that there is a difference between subtitles and captions. Subtitles assume that the user can hear but doesn’t necessarily understand the language or hear all the phrases.
Captions, on the other hand, note every significant audio event so that deaf and hard of hearing individuals understand what’s going on. Transcripts are also useful for helping deaf users experience videos the way they were meant to be experienced. And as a bonus, transcripts can enhance your SEO too!
By including sign language interpretation and transcripts of your content, you’re tapping into one of the most successful accessibility features and providing an alternative means for users to consume your content. Since sign language relies heavily on facial expressions and body language, it is essential to include this feature in your audio and video content if you’re focused on communicating the message effectively.
Tag all the visual elements on your site.
If you don’t live with visual impairment, you’ve probably never used your browser’s voice assistance and tried to navigate a site using it. People with visual impairments need to listen to every element on a page to figure out where they need to go next. If you don’t tag your photos, graphics, and buttons, visually impaired users can’t hear what you’re trying to tell them.
Highlight your site’s accessibility features.
Have you ever noticed how Amazon’s accessibility page makes it very clear what your options are depending on your specific needs? They also have links to activate these features. The only problem is that unless you’ve searched explicitly for that page on Google, it’s NOT easy to find because it isn’t available on the main page. This makes an otherwise helpful page useless to disabled users that don’t know where to find it.
Accessibility must be incorporated in the design guidelines from the start, so it is easy for disabled users to find. It’s also important to keep in mind that most accessibility plugins don’t adhere to every WCAG 2.1 standard. Your best route is to have a custom-designed accessibility feature close to the top of your page, one that’s visible and high-contrast, so visually-impaired individuals can easily find it with a screen reader.
Accessibility might sound like time and money you don’t want to spend, but it is 100% worth the effort. Don’t be like the UK Government that was losing more than £11 billion per year from disabled users bouncing from their sites.
Aside from missing out on the opportunity of tapping into a potential goldmine of customers, you could also potentially face legal action if you don’t cater equally to your disabled customers as much as your able audience.
If you want to become ADA and WCAG 2.1 compliant, there is hope. You can deploy smart strategies to optimize accessibility on your website. Thanks to companies like Day Translations, you can also have your audio and video content interpreted in sign language, opening up new markets for your business.