Have you ever thought about whether your business is accessible to individuals with disabilities? As many of you know I’m a physical and occupational therapist. My undergraduate background is in rehabilitation services which includes vocational services knowledge and accessibility. I work with persons with varying disabilities on a regular basis. With that knowledge on the forefront I try to make my business accessible.
Let’s start with the face of your business, your website. Did you know that you can be sued for not having a compliant website? Many people associate accessibility just with building access but there is also electronic access to be considered. Some recent news has affected brands associated with Rhianna, Beyonce and Dominoes Pizza. All of these brands were sued due to a lack of accessibility for their website.
Here are some links to a few articles regarding those lawsuits:
According to the news station WFLA, it was reported ” Last year, there were 2,285 ADA website lawsuits filed in federal courts across the nation, an increase of a 181 percent from 2017, according to website accessibility company UsableNet. The majority of lawsuits originate in Florida and New York.”
Source: WFLA News
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was created in 1990. This legislation is a civil rights law and includes regulations for businesses both state and local. It prohibits discrimination and allows for access for persons with differing abilities. It requires certain businesses to be compliant.
People with disabilities need opportunities to patronize businesses just like everyone else. Persons should not be excluded from everyday activities. With that information considered, what about digital content? Did you know that web content should be accessible to the blind or deaf community? Persons with these disabilities use assistive technology such as screen readers or closed captions to access content. Title I and III businesses are affected by this legislation. Businesses that have 15 or more employees and operate 20 or more weeks per year should be compliant. Things such as public accommodations should be met.
There is not a specific standard on how to make your site accessible but there are recommendations. Some recommendations include making your photos readable with alt+ text and making your content compatible with coding that makes screen readers function. Alt +text is important for SEO (search engine optimization) function when optimizing your website. Alt +text also serves another function which can make your website more accessible to the visually impaired. Other helpful items include drop down menus, keyboard access, prompts for online store checkouts, naming your saved photos, and coded imagery.
Some businesses may self publish websites and not have knowledge regarding how to make certain accommodations. As your brand grows it may be a wise decision to collaborate with a knowledgeable web designer. Smaller private businesses may not fall victim of litigation for accessibility. But, if your business continues to grow in size it is beneficial to be aware of this accessibility issue.
If you are currently a business owner that wants to become a brick and mortar company it is also helpful to understand ADA so that you are compliant when hiring persons with disabilities. It is also valuable when designing your storefront. There are regulations on building design such as the ratio for rise/run for ramp installation, path of travel and door threshold dimensions. Reasonable accommodations knowledge can be helpful when implementing a storefront.
Find out more regarding the ADA here: ADA website
Resources for Website Compliance: