You have a wheelchair ramp and handicapped parking spots at your place of business, but how does a blind, deaf, or differently-abled visitor experience your website?
Current accessibility standards and guidelines such as the U.S. Access Board’s Section 508 Standards, and the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), are the baselines for recent and increasing scrutiny of business websites by advocacy groups and legal entities.
There are numerous “smart marketing” reasons to pay attention to your website’s accessibility features – from better search engine positioning, to quality of customer experience that generates better end results (like leads and sales). But to what extent is your business exposed to this scrutiny? And how much should you do to protect your brand?
In a recent blog post, Bayshore Solutions‘ Stephen Massaro explains how building a website is like building a house. Likewise, evaluating the extent of accessibility improvements needed and the web updates required to get “up to code” is very similar to an accessibility structural renovation assessment for an office building.
Not many office structures are identical. Likewise, you certainly wouldn’t boast that, “My company website is exactly the same in every way as my competitors.” Every website is different, with the goal of differentiating the company in their market space. Just like the variety in number of floors or rooms in a building, the sheer number of pages in a website dictates the scope of an ADA-friendliness update.
Web accessibility and interoperability focus on the structure, functionality, and design of web pages, how easily people with varying levels of visual, hearing or physical abilities can experience them, and how effectively they work with assistive technology (such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, Braille readers, and alternate input devices). Below is an overview of the W3C’s WCAG principles and the associated expectations of your website user experience.
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines’ principle areas of inquiry ask, “Is your website…”
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard
- Give users enough time to read and use content
- Do not use content that causes seizures
- Help users navigate and find content
- Make text readable and understandable
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools
Each ‘room’ ( or page) in your website, as well as the entire interactive experience of the site, should satisfy the above principles to be in conformance with guidelines and “Up to code.”
So does your website ‘building’ need an elevator – or just an access ramp? How many bathrooms need expanded doorways or lowered sinks, if any? A guided and thorough review of every page of your website as well as its structure and coding will reveal the extent of renovations indicated. Correlating these findings with the specific accessibility requirements in your industry, your brand reputation considerations, and your competitive differentiation goals will determine the right renovation blueprints for your website.
This project may be as simple as implementing on-page measures (alt-text, captioning, font adjustments, etc.) that can be handled within your website content management system. Or the project may require some structural actions (navigation or coding changes, functionality adjustments of speed or graphic interface, etc.) that require a web developer to renovate.
Your 2018 marketing plan should include addressing this rapidly emerging trend in digital business. To help you get started, we’ve put together an information kit on website accessibility with checklists, standards overview and comparisons, and links to diagnostic tools to aid your next steps in accessibility assessment and planning.