Web Accessibility Requirements:
It’s time to take them seriously
Who here knows what the Federal Web Accessibility Guidelines are? Raise your hands… Anyone?
Most professionals don’t know that the Americans with Disabilities Act, combined with the Rehabilitation Act, require that companies falling under the Acts make their electronic information – their web sites – accessible to people using assistive devices such as screen readers.
These laws have been in place for about four years. But two recent lawsuits have brought accessibility issues, and the legal issues they imply, into the limelight. Both Barnes & Noble and Claire’s Stores have settled with plaintiffs regarding inaccessible sites, and a Florida-based firm has sued Southwest Airlines on behalf of a blind user who cannot use their site. Click here to read the article.
Don’t panic, though. You can bring your site into compliance fairly easily. First, read the requirements posted on the Section 508 web site. The guidelines are easy to follow and worth a review. If they don’t make sense, talk to your web consultant (shameless plug here). Any web developer worth their salt can help you comply with Section 508. It may cost a bit, but there are benefits:
1. It’s the right thing to do. I know, not a great capitalist motive, but sometimes doing the right thing is good for business. Read on…
2. You’ll make more money. If your site isn’t accessible, you’re excluding a huge potential audience. With a growing disabled community using the web, compliant web sites can tap a new market.
3. Accessibility = Visibility. A Section 508 compliant web site is typically optimized for search engines, as well. Bring your site into compliance and you’ll likely be more visible to search engines, too.
4. Accessibility = Usability. If your site complies with Section 508, it’s also more usable for folks with standard browsers. By including ALT text, making sure that all content is easily readable, and working for the simplest interface possible, you create a site that everyone can appreciate.
As the web grows into an increasingly mainstream tool, more and more users with special needs will visit your web site. Follow the Section 508 guidelines and you can make sure you get more customers, do a good deed and improve your web marketability. How many chances will you get to do all three at once?
Talk to you next month,
Ian Lurie – President, Portent Interactive