You’ve heard it before but luckily the solution is simple; make accessibility the standard and not an exception. Accessibility as a standard removes all claims of discrimination and noncompliance.
One often overlooked area of accessibility is often contained in an otherwise “accessible” website. In a word – documents. Simple right? Unfortunately, oftentimes, a website appears to be accessible, but the documents contained therein are not compliant. A good rule-of-thumb is to make sure that what is provided to a sighted client must also be available to a person with a visual disability.
Not all people with a visual impairment announce their disability. By having accessible information for everyone will create a positive experience for them and create goodwill for your business.
The first item that is often overlooked is how documents are provided. The idea of accessibility is to allow people with a disability their independence. What kind of independence is being provided to a person who is blind or has low vision if they cannot read the materials provided to them?
Organizations spend a great deal of money to be compliant with building codes and larger ticket items like accessible websites, but often overlook or don’t consider the importance of content accessibility, which if you think about it, doesn’t make much sense.
Accessible doorways, entrances, parking spaces, restrooms, bank machines, elevators and websites are the primary responses businesses will provide when asked about compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Rights laws, but if the content of a website is not accessible to a large percentage of the population, what is the point of having it up and running at all? In our global economy people have many choices, and reaching the biggest audience possible is just good business.
Non-compliance can manifest in various ways, including that the document cannot be read by another (assistive) device that allows a person with a disability to read the document, or it can be as simple as the images contained within a document do not have alt text attached so a visually impaired reader will have gaps in the flow of information from the document.
This is a scenario that many businesses find themselves in hot water over if they are flagged as being ADA non-compliant. More and more often now the Department of Justice is taking action on claims made against organizations that are not ADA Accessible and ADA Compliant. When these actions are taken to court things can get expensive very quickly.
It is estimated that at least 20% of Americans have a disability of some type. These numbers are expected to rise over the next decade as reporting and assessment improve. These are big numbers, but fortunately to the best of their ability most people do not allow their disabilities to limit their lifestyle, work or leisure time.
It is unfortunate that many businesses limit their clients by not being accessible. The Department of Justice and ADA Attorneys are working to close the gaps by initiating lawsuits and issuing fines, and negative press for the non-compliant businesses can cost them even more over time. You can find information about the current laws and regulations at the ADA website.