Digital accessibility is an increasingly important factor to consider when developing products and services for the Internet. There is a growing need to cater to people that do not have the same level of access to digital goods and services due to having a disability of some kind.
There is a law that aims to address this need. Called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it was passed in 1990. The law provides guidelines for providing goods and services to people with disabilities, who have historically faced numerous obstacles to being able to obtain them.
Even with the passage of the act, developers, designers, and content managers still encountered difficulty in determining what constitutes digital accessibility and how to achieve ADA compliance for web accessibility.
In order to address these issues, the US Department of Justice issued a Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SANPRM). This effectively made web accessibility part of the standards outlined by the ADA. SANPRM encourages web developers and designers to conform to the WCAG 2.0 level AA requirements for the purposes of ensuring digital accessibility.
Addressing digital accessibility issues is an essential concern, given the growing need for online connectivity between providers and end users. ADA compliance for web accessibility is particularly important for eCommerce merchants and site developers/designers, considering that more and more business is being conducted online. By neglecting to conform to accessibility requirements, businesses potentially lose the opportunity to connect with more than 60 million people with disabilities in the United States.
As some of the key architects in the development of websites, web developers have a crucial role to play in ensuring digital accessibility. With the proper use of color contrast, text size, logos, and other visual elements, they can make a site more accessible to people with disabilities.
The availability of assistive technology gives rise to the argument as to whether or not web developers actually have to concern themselves with digital accessibility. After all, there have been considerable advances in assistive technology that enable color-blind and other sight-impaired people to adjust onscreen colors to a significant degree. Furthermore, there are many browser extensions, and other software applications, which can be used to adjust color contrast.
Even so, these solutions aren’t always as effective as they might seem. There can be considerable variance in vision-related color vision deficiencies among different individuals, so what might be effective for one might not work at all for another. Furthermore, these solutions can actually worsen the problem by causing lags, blurring images, and otherwise rendering them even more difficult to see.
Using images of text brings up a few other concerns. WCAG 1.4.5 mandates that users should be able to customize text according to their own requirements. Often times, assistive technology does not provide this option.
For purposes of ADA compliance in web accessibility, visual representations of text and images of text should have contrast ratios of 4.5:1 or higher. Large text should have contrast ratios of at least 3:1
Text size requirements are fairly straightforward. For optimal digital accessibility, large text should be at least 18-point font. Medium text should be at least 14-point font and in boldface, with a font-weight of at least 700.
Logos are generally exempt from these requirements. Even if some letters of a text logo do not conform to contrast requirements, they may still be used without worry of being in violation of digital accessibility requirements.
Developers do have to ensure that text overlays are implemented properly. Text with multi-colored backgrounds is best avoided, as they can be too difficult to read.
Web designers have an equally important role to play in ensuring ADA compliance for web accessibility. By carefully considering the various elements of a web page or interface, they are able to make a site more accessible to a greater number of users with disabilities.
One thing that designers should concern themselves with is what information a particular image conveys. This is usually a much more effective approach than trying to determine what the most appropriate description of a particular image should be.
Designers can also make a web page more accessible by testing how easy it is to navigate with only a keyboard. Elements, such as links, that enable users to skip to the main content and headers that enable easier navigation further enhance the usability and accessibility of a page. Designers should also strive to provide clearly-labeled forms and meaningful alt tags.
Content managers and content marketers have their own roles to play in terms of ensuring ADA compliance for web accessibility. Although content management systems can be quite complex, implementing measures that improve digital accessibility is actually fairly simple and straightforward.
One of the most effective methods for improving digital accessibility is utilizing concise and comprehensive image descriptions. Incorporating “image,” “graphic,” and “icon” in alt attributes are best avoided, as they don’t effectively describe the image. Instead, content managers are better off communicating the gist of the information associated with the image.
Copy editing tools are usually more effective when they conform to the “WYSIWYG” or “what you see is what you get” protocol. Rather than creating unique formats, content managers will achieve more optimal results by adopting native style formats. Actual headings should also be used instead of larger font text in boldface.
Content managers are encouraged to use native list elements that are already available in the content management system editor. This is often preferable to using paragraphs for items lists. Ordered lists are usually better suited for numbering, while unordered lists are usually more appropriate for bulleted items.
Video closed captioning is fairly easy to implement via the master controls. Content managers should default to automatic closed captioning as much as possible.
For more information on Digital Accessibility and ADA Compliance, please visit the Zing website at www.Zingllc.com.
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