When building an online presence for your business it’s important to remember that not everyone who visits your site will have the same abilities as you. Specifically, we’re talking about seeing and hearing abilities. Webmasters and site builders should always consider the potential for visitors to have full or partial impairment to these senses and how this may affect user experience.
At a base level, you want everyone to be able to use your website because it’s the right thing to do. At another level, however, business owners should be aware they leave themselves open to legal vulnerability without taking the proper steps toward accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been used to take legal action against businesses with poor online accessibility. While the ADA does not specifically require websites meet certain standards -- yet -- there is a precedent set in the US to use the act in litigation.
The experts at Savvior know you want everyone to be able to use your webpage. We definitely know you don’t want to leave yourself open to litigation. But we also know it can be difficult to make sure your site is up to par. Savvior’s experts know about ADA compliance; that’s why we’ve put together this breakdown of ways you can get your webpage up to par. We’re going to look at the 2 most important aspects of user experience:
Screen capture taken from WordPress
You’ll be hard pressed to find a website that uses audio to direct users from one page to the next. As such, most deaf or hard of hearing users have no trouble navigating the average webpage. But what about the blind or visually impared?
There are two important facts of blind web surfing to understand first.
Many visually impared people use what’s called screen reading software.
The most common software used in the US is called JAWS, or Job Access With Speech (another popular option is called Window Eyes).
Many blind web surfers also don’t use a mouse to navigate.
With these in mind, here’s a simple list of things you can do to make your website easily navigable to the visually impaired.
Clean up the page
Screen reading software is going to read everything on the page, and we mean everything. It’s most convenient for the blind -- and your seeing customers as well -- if each page is as clutter free as possible. Get rid of any unnecessary icons or pictures and make sure the number of links to a page is kept to a reasonable limit.
Empty Alt Text
In the event there’s an icon or picture that has to stay, make sure the alt text is emptied or reasonable. Screen readers read every part of the code, so a bulleted list will read “Stylized Bullet -- Home; Stylized Bullet -- About Us” etc. Making sure the alt text for such items is emptied will make a great deal of difference. Similarly, if there’s a necessary image, make sure the alt text for it is reasonable in length and descriptive.
Anchor text should be descriptive
Screen readers often have a tool to read the links on a page. Make sure the anchor text for those links lets users know exactly where it will take them. Linked text that simply says “Click Here” or “For More Information” give guests nothing. Try something more like “For More Information on X”.
Start important and work your way down
This also rings true for seeing guests, but if a person needs to listen to the information on the page all the way to the bottom to get anything important, that’s poor design and their user experience is going to drop dramatically.
Keywords as text
Screen readers also have keyword search mechanisms to make surfing easier. Make sure keywords and searchable phrases are written in actual text. Pictures or visuals won’t be picked up by keyword search and your visually impaired guests won’t be able to find anything they need to.
Make sure links and tabs are easily scrolled with the arrow keys; that the back space will take a user to the previous page; etc.
Keeping these tips in mind will not only make your site more navigable for the blind, but also seeing users as well. It will also help keep your business out of an ADA non-compliance lawsuit that can turn something so simple into a big problem.
The content on your page is the real bread and butter you want everyone to be looking at, so you want to be sure it’s accessible to everyone. We’re going to be looking at:
Pictures and videos are the two main cases for visual media. For those using screen readers, your pictures should include either a good descriptive caption or alt text. It’s a good idea to run through your site using a screen reader. Make sure every picture and piece of visual media is coming across just as effectively over read text as it is visually.
Videos turn up difficulties for both the seeing and hearing impaired, and ADA video compliance is also a key aspect of the Act. In order for a piece of media to be considered ADA video compliant it must cater to both the needs of the blind and deaf. ADA video compliance means different things depending on the impairment. Sometimes, those using screen readers can rely simply on the dialogue in a video to grasp the message. If the visuals are necessary, it’s important to include a screen reader friendly caption or descriptive alt text that will allow for better understanding.
Conversely, ADA video compliance for the deaf is going to mean good captions and subtitles if the use of audio is necessary for the message. ADA video compliance defines captions as descriptive text that includes all aspects of audio that would be lost on a deaf individual. A door closing; a bird chirping. All of these would be described using captions. On the other hand, ADA video compliance defines subtitles as descriptive text that includes only dialogue. Those who have the ability to hear that door or bird but may have other hindrances such as auditory processing impairments, english being a second language, or being in a noisy environment would use these.
In order for content to be ADA video compliant, you’ll want to make sure all of these aspects are accounted for and considered when launching your video content.
By now, you probably have a good idea of how to make text-based online content accessible to the blind and the deaf. Remember screen readers and their keyword searches. Remember to keep things clear and non-reliant on visual or audio supplements.
Keep things simple. Write as if your reader doesn’t speak english as a first language. This is a generally good rule; you might have readers with a poor grasp of the language. However, it’s also important here because, for many Deaf individuals, english is not their first language, nor the language they use most in a day. American Sign Language is a different language with different rules and parts of speech. Keep this in mind when you’re creating the text-based content for your site.
All these rules can be a lot to keep in mind when creating a site, but their important if you want to keep your business ADA compliant and accessible to all of your customers. Following these rules and keeping yourself open to new suggestions are great ways to get started on your site. For more help on your road to ADA compliance and a better website, contact the experts at Savvior. With over 2 decades of experience, they’re the people to go to when you’re looking for help.