Site Accessibility

Think of your online presence as an extension of your brick and mortar; make accommodations for all.

by Rebecca Kowalewicz, VP Digital

When creating or redesigning a website, many marketers and web designers take into consideration the look of the site, its overall responsiveness, and search engine optimization. However, often neglected is website accessibility and ADA compliance. Not only is this a missed opportunity to draw in customers, but it is also a violation of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, regulations that are part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Types of Accessibility Issues: It is important to understand what types of accessibility issues could impact a user’s experience on a company’s website. Knowing this at the start will assist companies in designing or overhauling their website to comply with the regulations and, of course, make it easy to use for those with accessibility issues.

Forms of disabilities include:

• Visual impairments, such as blindness or color blindness.

• Neurological and motor impairments, such as limited sensory and motor controls, or difficulty utilizing hands and arms.

• Cognitive issues, such as speech, language and learning impediments or attention disorder.

• Auditory impairments, such as deafness or being hard of hearing.

All of these forms of disabilities can vary in severity. Making your website accessible is just as important as how it looks, its responsiveness, and how it’s optimized for search.

Website Accessibility: A website must be versatile enough to address all the different forms of disabilities.

This means that your website must have a number of capabilities. For users with auditory impairments, for example, you need to ensure that all videos on your website contain captions. In addition to the captions, include video transcripts for those with auditory or cognitive issues.

A great website design should be true to your company’s brand colors. However, it is important to use colors with good contrast and larger buttons for those with visual impairments. This includes your links and navigation bar, too.

Those with limited or no motor skills or who have neurological and cognitive concerns benefit from the inclusion of voice recognition on your website as well as text-to-speech functionality.

For your website to be compliant with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, a clean and clear layout must be considered for those with cognitive and learning disabilities while including larger buttons and customizable text to assist those with visual impairments. When the user of your website can change the spacing, size, color and font, it makes it easier for a wider audience to utilize the site regardless of disability, by making it more comfortable for them regardless of what type of device they use to access it.

Finally, some disabilities make operating a mouse in the traditional way hard or even impossible. Websites must be operable by keyboard to accommodate those individuals.

Lost Income: According to the CDC, one in four adults in the United States has some form of disability, and it is especially common in babyboomers, or those 65 years of age and older. What is important to remember is that babyboomers tend to have the most disposable income in the consumer market, so if a business website fails the ADA accessibility standards, beyond incurring possible penalties and fines, it may also be ignoring its potential best customers.

Aside from the financial benefits of bringing your website in compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, it is the right action to take on your website. Just as you would have a ramp option for those in wheelchairs to enter your business or permit a Seeing Eye dog to guide a blind person into the shop, as business owners, marketers and web developers, we must start thinking of our online presence as an extension of our brick and mortar and make just accommodations.

Common Issues: When our agency is asked to redesign a website, one of the most common issues we see is color contrast. When most organizations start the process of designing their website, and it comes to colors, they use the primary colors already set out in their brand guidelines. However, some of your colors may not work well with the ADA’s standards for color contrast.

Before redesigning a website, put both your primary and secondary brand hex colors into an online contrast tester (there are free ones available if you do a search). An online tester will provide you feedback on whether or not the colors will pass or fail readability. We recommend that if any of the colors fail, they are not used on your site as font, or that you choose a new secondary color in your color palette that passes. In some cases, brands will have to create a complementary second color palette to adhere to compliance. n

As originally published on Forbes.com. Clearbridge Branding Agency is a digital marketing agency located in Glassboro. Visit ClearBridgeMedia.com.

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