Yesterday I was pleased to attend a webinar with Nicole Clarke and Rick Mare from Shazamme on the subject of website accessibility, which means making sure that all visitors to your site can use and engage with it regardless of disabilities, impairments or other limitations. It is an emerging area of legal importance for all website operators, as web visitors with disabilities are beginning to sue for better access. Some of the key points I took away from yesterday’s session include the following:
Voice technology has completely transformed search. With the proliferation of Siri, Alexa and other voice-activated tools, more and more users are “voice-first” searchers, regardless of disability. In addition to being a key component for accessibility, voice also helps your SEO as Google and other search engines continue to increase the focus on this behavior. All of the voice search tools use their own map tools, though, so you’ll need to submit your site to multiple map/search engines so that voice search is enabled across multiple devices and platforms. That was a big ah-ha moment for me!
Outside of site structure, low contrast (not enough difference between the background and text colors) and missing ALT-tags on images are the most common website accessibility issues that are encountered. Fortunately, these are fairly simple and affordable to fix. In fact, depending on how much access you have to your site, you may be able to fix them yourself. There are many tools that can help you identify accessibility issues and correct them, at a wide range of price points. Some tools are even free. Here are some resources to consider:
- Userway.org — free widget and paid services to help you find and monitor accessibility issues
- AccessiBe — free audit that helps you discover whether your site is both accessible and compliant with legislation
- Web Accessibility Initiative — Comprehensive list of website accessibility tools
Web technology and requirements change so frequently it can be hard to keep up. Websites are not “one and done” projects that you can ignore after launch. In the USA, websites are considered “places of public accommodation” and as such, must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The US Department of Justice intends to propose new regulations this year to provide technical standards for improving website technology. Non-compliant sites are at risk of discrimination-related lawsuits and other penalties, so this is something that will require your time and attention in the near-term.