ADA Compliance for websites, mobile web, and digital interfaces is USA law. This might be news! But everybody was supposed to be compliant as of January under WCAG standards version 2.0.
Version 2.1 was released on 5 June 2018 and of course, you are expected to keep up with new versions of the standard.
But it shouldn’t be “supposed to.” It should be “want to.”
If you have an office, you know you have to follow ADA standards. You don’t build a second building for people with ADA needs. You make your one building work for everybody.
The same is true with your digital interfaces. We don’t build a separate website for people with vision, mobility, and hearing issues. We design and refine the single website to work for everybody. And yes, it can be done.
What does accessibility include?
Accessibility focuses on making your website work easily for people with vision issues (8.1 million people), mobility issues (30 million people, of which 20 million have issues lifting or grasping objects), and hearing issues (7.6 million people). Numbers are based on the 2010 US Census.
Increasingly, we are also talking about cognitive and mental health issues and how they relate to accessibility. For example, someone who has cognitive issues may need more time to take care of a task; don’t “time them out” too quickly. People with memory issues may need more clues or clarity related to what they are doing and what to do next.
Even if some people have more than one of these, this is tens of millions of Americans identifying as disabled. It’s not a small amount of people we can write off, disregard, or ignore. Americans with disabilities are your customers, and you need to care about all of your customers.
Vision issues might be color blindness, partial blindness, or complete blindness. The color blind can’t distinguish certain colors. And those with partial or total blindness might use screen readers, which speak what they see on the page. We also want to make sure that foreground text colors can be easily read on background colors, especially in navigation, buttons, headers, and footers. Pink words on a grey background might sound fun but never sacrifice readability for visual design.
Mobility is often someone who can’t use his or her hands well or at all. They can navigate the web with their voice and type through dictation.
People with hearing issues cannot hear media or audio content, which tend to be videos and podcasts.
POUR – The Guiding Principles
Perceivable – Not everybody has the same use of sight, hearing, or mobility.
Operative – Consider how people interact with your site: mouse, keyboard, voice, mouth stick, etc. Be careful of giving people time limits to do something; not all users move or think as fast as you imagine. Keep users from making mistakes. If they still do, errors should be easy to understand and fix.
Understandable – Write clearly and simply. Include alternative text and video captions. Simplify functionality where possible.
Robust – Do not limit users to certain technologies (ie: You must use Internet Explorer). Remember that some users have advanced tech features turned off. Consider that some users are still using older versions of browsers and tech.
We can help. Accessibility is part of UX and one of our sub-specialties. We offer an Accessibility Report (follow the CTA to purchase), which will check your website and mobile web for the key elements expected for compliance. Or you can have us do our UX Optimization Report (which has accessibility included) and is a larger look at your site’s UX including navigation, content, color, usability, and likelihood to convert.
What can I do for now?
While you find someone to work on your website accessibility (or hire us), here is a disclaimer you can use on your site.
[Your Company] is committed to making our website / social media accessible and user-friendly for everyone. If you are having difficulty viewing or navigating the content on our website, or notice any content, feature or functionality that you believe is not fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, please contact our [webmaster, UX expert, web designer, etc.] at [phone number and email]. If hearing impaired, please contact your preferred Relay Service for assistance. We take your feedback seriously and will consider it as we evaluate possible accommodations. Please note that [Your Company] does not control vendors of third-party digital content and to the extent possible, we strongly encourage such vendors to provide content that is accessible and user-friendly.
But don’t just disclaim. Listen to feedback. Worth with experts who can help you be not just compliant but now understanding and prioritizing the needs of those with ADA-related issues.