Why Accessible Content Is Important in 2020
With over 50 million Americans suffering from some form of disability (and many of them being avid internet users), online businesses need to realize the importance of making their content accessible.
There are countless lawsuits each year against online retailers for their lack of accessibility. These lawsuits are usually filed by B2C customers, but any business on the website is vulnerable (especially if they aren’t compliant with Section 508).
The majority of lawsuits are settled out of court. Would your business be able to handle a lawsuit? Do you have the capital to settle? If you’re like most business, probably not.
That’s why you need to seriously consider getting your content aligned with current section 508 standards.
Don’t know what section 508 is? You should. Start by reading Accessibe’s 508 compliance overview.
Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about web accessibility and why you should make the necessary adjustments.
The History of Web Accessibility
The ADA was signed into law in 1990 and is considered an extension of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. At the time (in 1990), there wasn’t much technology to worry about. However, over the years (and due to all of the developments in the tech industry), there have been quite a few amendments made to the original law.
Section 508 was added to the ADA just over 20 years ago (right when the internet was really poised to take off). The purpose of Section 508 is to make all forms of technology accessible for people with disabilities.
January 2017 saw another major update to Section 508. The update focused on creating more inclusive web experiences for disabled people. The next section covers the major areas that Section 508/WCAG 2.0 focuses on.
Does Section 508 Apply to Your Business?
Section 508 directly applies to businesses that work with government agencies/organizations (i.e. B2G companies). However, the standards also apply to contractors, vendors, and other entities that work with the government.
Private businesses come under scrutiny for not being compliant with Section 508 all the time, which is why it’s important to ensure that your content is as compliant as possible. This especially rings true if your business does any B2G work (in any capacity).
Section 508 for Websites: Major Areas of Focus
There are quite a few relevant standards provided by Section 508 that most websites should apply to their content. However, below are some of the more major areas of focus that anyone looking to make their website more accessible should make a priority.
Proper Contrasting Between Colors
Millions of colorblind people use the internet on a daily basis, to do everything from shop to work, and even for entertainment purposes. This is one of the main reasons why Section 508 has a large focus on making sure that websites utilize proper contrast formats.
Having the proper level of contrast between foreground and background elements is an important part of reaching this standard. Making this a focus from the start of your content production process will save many future headaches (i.e. needing to go back and redesign all of your creative work). Using a contrast checker is an excellent way to ensure compliance.
Ensuring Content Can be Read by Screenreaders
Screen reading technology is used by people who suffer from vision-related problems. This type of software essentially reads the content that’s on the screen. This is one of the main reasons why alt-tags exist; so that people with poor-vision can properly understand (and visualize) a page’s content.
Having clearly defined page elements is vital (from an accessibility viewpoint). Disabled users need to be able to easily navigate your web content. This means having a menu that’s clearly defined within the context of the page (and also properly formatted).
Animations can present certain difficulties for disabled web users. Whether they have neurological problems, or they have issues with their eyesight, animations should ideally be able to be turned off.
Video, animation, and audio elements shouldn’t have any flashing/strobing effects. Any type of multimedia on your site also needs to have clearly labeled control options (e.g. a play/stop button, audio control, etc.).
Accessibility from the Start
Making sure that your content is aligned with current accessibility standards doesn’t need to be a major project. One of the best ways to do this is by incorporating accessibility as an objective from day one of your content strategy (not just as an afterthought).
Backpedaling to try and make something compliant can be a major headache, so focusing on creating accessible content (rather than editing content for compliance) is the way to go.