Why worry about complying with the WCAG guidelines used by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sections 504 and 508 of Rehabilitation Act which require electronic and information technology be ready-made for all people.
On January 28, 2017, the US government refined and reinforced these laws, mandating that all institutions comply with WCAG 2.0 A/AA.
The World Wide Wide Consortium (W3C) establishes the rules of the web. Ultimately, they dictate what’s valid code and what’s not, what’s inclusive design and what’s discrimination.
As disabilities increase in number and expand in nature, it not an option to align with modern standards.
Your website needs to be:
- semantic. Especially with the recent release of HTML5 (a modern markup language used to create websites), creating meaningful, well-designed content is of utmost priority.
- simple. Flashy designs or “wacky web effects” are ill-advised. And that doesn’t mean unpleasant to the eye, or doing away with dynamic content. (More on that later.)
- mindful. You need a strategy that will cover every end of the disability spectrum.
Types of Disabilities and Their Effect on Accessibility
As each of the five senses can suffer impairment, our websites need to accommodate to all.
When you’re hard of hearing, being asked to watch a video can be frustrating, especially when it contains essential information.
Video services like YouTube attempt to automate closed captioning with artificial intelligence, but it often ends up generating nonsense. This is even more infuriating for the afflicted.
Any kind of content that assumes and obligates a lack of deafness is discriminatory.
In July 2015, WebAIM reported that two-thirds of the blind population feel that Internet accessibility has either worsened or stayed the same in that past year.
Sometimes, websites just have weird color schemes. A lack of contrast can create a lot of difficulty for someone with a visual disability such as colorblindness.
Font size variation is also a big problem.
On the other hand, highly visual content with a lack of effective screen-reader attributes can create serious informational gaps for blind people.
In 2006, the National Federation of the Blind won a case against Target because their website was considered an extension of their services, although largely inaccessible to the visually impaired.
Cognitive disabilities such as ADD or dyslexia can interfere with the reading of ‘flashy’ content.
Web 2.0 effects such as fast-moving sliders, rotating banners, full-page parallaxes, etc. can be a pain to read even for people without LDs.
If your website can’t be browsed solely through the use of the tab and arrow keys, your website is not ADA-compliant.
Not only that, some people can’t access their keyboard or mouse at all.
How to Up Your Website Compliance
It all starts with design and development. This can get pretty technical, but the principle is common sense.
What does the structure of your website look like? Is it easy to navigate for a beginner end user? If not, chances are it won’t be for someone with any kind of disability.
There are lots of tools out there to help you validate your ADA compliance.
W3C has a list of services that can tell you whether you’re doing the 504/508 thing right.
Let’s start with a few examples of the best steps to take towards inclusive design.
To remedy blindness in relation to web development, you need to make all visual content accessible to the ear.
This involves creating alt tags (alternative text) to images, WAI-ARIA information to navigational elements, and properly formatting and labeling any content tables you have.
To make videos accessible to both vision- and hearing-impaired peoples, simply adding captions isn’t good enough. You need to describe what’s going on and who is speaking. Context is key.
Ensuring your alphabetical, structural, and graphical website indices are easy to use is also important.
As an IT director, the color scheme is your call. You want it to be relevant to your school, but it needs to effect universal visibility.
Here are some other quick hints:
- Don’t use timers. Browsing the Internet isn’t a test.
- Keep epilepsy and other visual sensitivities in mind.
- No floating objects or pop-ups.
Some Other Things to Bear in Mind
This isn’t to say you need to make your website dull and boring. You may really like the current design you have.
That’s okay. You might be able to make some minor tweaks to get it working.
On the other hand, you may need to create an alternative mechanism to include people of all circumstances.
The joys of dynamic web content aren’t to be shunned. Delivering information in a cutting-edge presentation is often the most effective way of hooking your audience.
But when “cutting-edge” means you cut off a fifth of the population, it becomes an issue. There is a healthy balance, which comes with good code and thoughtful design.
Furthermore, communication plays an important role in compliance.
Bugs or incompatible pages should be reported immediately. That can’t happen if there’s no good way to contact your school’s IT crew.
An Effective Strategy
Here’s a threefold method to getting this web compliance thing off your back.
- Assess your website. Use the online tools mentioned, or get in touch with us to figure out what can be done to avoid indictments from the OCR.
- Separate what can be done immediately from what you need help with. You may need to call the shots on certain aspects like navigation or website. Other times you might need the assistance of an experienced developer.
- Get assistance.
We’re the professionals of website compliance. In no time, your website could be modern, beautiful, and wholly inclusive.
Save yourself the stress. Let’s figure out a plan for you.