Earlier this month the US Supreme Court refused to hear a case regarding whether or not websites should be accessible to everyone.
The case originated in 2016 with Robles v. Domino’s Pizza alleging that the Dominos website and app could not be used by individuals who are blind or visually-impaired using a screen reader.
A lower court ruled in favor of Dominos, which went on appeal to the Ninth Circuit court, overturned that verdict. They wrote in their summary:
“Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino’s physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation.”
The US Supreme Court denied Domino’s Pizza petition to hear the case. While this was viewed as a victory for website accessibility advocates, it only added confusion for businesses with websites.
Focus on Customer Service for Everyone
There are many positive reasons for businesses to own a website that meets accessibility guidelines.
The code used for accessibility purposes also makes it much easier for search engines to understand your web site. For that reason, many SEO’s have relied on basic accessibility enhancements for text content and images to help with their marketing strategies.
Over the years new guidelines were added to what is known as WCAG, to adapt to new technology and computer devices. For example, mobile devices have specific settings for accessibility. Each operating system addresses this differently, so mobile application developers need to know how Android and Apple implement accessibility enhancements. If your business depends on mobile applications, it makes sense to hire developers trained in mobile accessibility.
The most compelling reason to own an inclusive website is that more people can use it.
While the most public cases on ADA website accessibility lawsuits are driven by blind users who find themselves unable to conduct the same tasks as sighted users can, the bulk of accessibility guidelines covers a wide range of disabilities, handicaps and impairments, including permanent or temporary ones.
The more you understand how people use websites, the better prepared you are to cover those bases within your web design. It also helps to know the limits of computers too.
For example, most mobile phones don’t come with a mouse or pointer. The screens are small and if web pages are not coded properly, the text may be too tiny to see and read. Many people hold their phone in one hand and use their thumb to navigate.
What happens when someone has no hands? How do you help with readability for sight impaired people? It was discovered that people with large fingers had trouble using mobile devices, so specifications were developed to make it easier to touch buttons and links by adding code for tap points.
For any computer device, but especially mobile, the ability to zoom in and increase the font size is a welcome assist for anyone who strains to read.
Age is an interesting consideration too. If your business targets persons over age 50, a new set of circumstances should be considered for the design of the website. In addition to using larger font sizes, how a page is laid out is important for scanning, understanding and recalling content.
White space on web pages relaxes website visitors, while crammed page elements create stress. Some website designs create frustration such as animated images, popup forms and oversized images next to text. Persons who are easily distracted may be unable to focus on what you have to offer.
It is a common mistake to put text inside images. Search engines and screen readers do not see this text. Sometimes entire pages are missing text completely.
Cognition is often overlooked by businesses because they don’t understand how we think, and how often we forget what we see. This is one of the critical areas of web design for accessibility and usability because it directly ties to conversion rates.
For example, sometimes the brand name is not placed anywhere on the homepage or landing page in text. It may appear one time in the logo but that is not helpful for search engines or screen readers. For visitors with short memories, it is common for them to arrive to a website and leave without ever registering the name of the website in their mind.
Navigation without proper markup for screen readers and assistive devices reduces the likelihood that visitors are able to remain on your website. They require visual and hidden ques for sense of place, links, and instructions for tasks containing many steps or form fields to fill out.
PDF’s need to be accessible. WordPress themes and plugins do too. Videos should provide captions and text transcripts. Podcasts should provide text transcripts. For accessibility, a guiding principle to remember is to always provide an alternative source to information.
Know Your Purpose
Start out by organizing your thoughts and ideas. Feel free to brainstorm, look at other websites for design ideas and do competitive research. When you create a list of goals and plans for your website, they become your foundation and help you stay on track and focused.
The most successful websites know their purpose for being online.
What are the goals for your business? How do you wish to meet the goals of your online visitors?
What makes your business stand out?
For example, if you are a local medical provider, what types of information do you want prospective patients to know about your practice? How well do you understand what they are looking for and how they are searching for it, such as their mobile device or laptop?
Are they at work or at home when they need your service? Can they get emergency help? Do you accept new patients? Can they download forms to bring in with them?
Do patients refer you? What does your business look like on the inside and outside? Is it wheelchair accessible?
Some companies take advantage of the rise in website ADA lawsuits and create fear campaigns to drive in business. Here is what you must know:
We are often asked, “Do we really need to have an accessible website?” The answer is that is up to you. An accessible website provides your business with a competitive edge. Customer loyalty is golden.