Reality check: Using the internet – including websites and numerous cloud-based applications – is a requirement of the times that most of us take for granted. Assistive technology, such as screen readers or magnification software, are now available as mainstream features within popular operating systems or as browser plugins. Assistive technology, whether native or acquired via a third-party vendor, is essential for people who are blind or visually impaired to access the web independently. However, these solutions don’t work if your website is not accessible, resulting in a frustrating user experience for those seeking information, products and services online.
Reality check: According to a 2012 U.S. Census Bureau Report, there are 56.7 million people with disabilities in the United States. And, according to the report for the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, 23.7 million adult Americans reported experiencing vision loss. (For the survey, vision loss was defined as having trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, including blindness/inability to see at all.) Why not build a website everyone can use?
Reality check: An accessible website can be as visually appealing as you want it to be – the main difference is that an accessible website allows for a separation of content from visual presentation, so that users can use assistive technology to customize the appearance of content, identify components and navigate your site. You can still use images, a variety of colors and many other cool features. You will need to pay attention to contrast between text and background. And all users appreciate a simple layout.
Reality check: If you are a federal agency or plan to sell your digital products to a federal agency, then your website or application must meet specific accessibility requirements. If you are a private or public entity and a person with a disability cannot access your goods and services, then you are at risk for legal action. Over 200 lawsuits were filed in 2016 on the basis of discrimination. Why shut the door on millions of consumers and put yourself and your company at legal risk?
Reality check: Building an accessible website from the start is more cost effective than retrofitting an existing site. And, you’ll end up with a better, more user-friendly product that is easier to maintain, which will save you money in the long run. Through education and training, your QA and development staff can learn accessibility requirements and techniques. Incorporating – and prioritizing – these approaches in standard processes will ensure that accessibility becomes “how it’s done.”
Are you ready to make your company or organization’s site accessible? Perkins Access, Perkins School for the Blind’s digital accessibility consulting service, offers workshops as well as tailored assessments and solutions. Contact [email protected] or 617-972-7868 to learn more.