perceived importance of ADA-compliant websites, many city websites do not
comply with best practices that help disabled people access content. While ADA, W3C, and other organizations provide detailed guidelines
and best practices, very few enforceable laws exist to keep cities accountable.
Plus, even if a website designer follows all ADA best practices, a city
employee may upload content to the city's website that doesn’t meet these requirements.
signs exist that the Department of Justice may create enforceable ADA-related website regulations in 2017, it’s not definite at this time. But
that doesn’t mean your city should ignore ADA-compliant website best practices.
your website ADA-compliant, you:
haven’t thought about ADA compliance for your website, then where should you
start? While existing guidelines cover a lot of technical ground, here are some
best practices that should be easy to tackle with the help of your website
designer and whoever creates and uploads content to your website.
just upload an image to a website as quickly and simply as possible. However,
there should be an option on the back end of your website to provide
alternative text (or “alt text”) for an image. For example, if you place a
picture of city hall on your website then the alt text may say “Picture of city
hall on a sunny day.” If someone is blind or cannot see very well, they may use
a screen reader tool that describes all images on a page. When you fill out the
alt text, you make images “readable” and accessible to people with vision
audio files (like podcasts) have become more and more embraced by cities. But
what if someone can’t see a video? Or what if someone can’t hear the audio?
Provide alternate ways for people to access the content. For example:
website is a structural mess, then it will be even worse for people with
disabilities who try to navigate it with screen readers or keyboards alone.
Your website’s information architecture (meaning the way your webpages are
structured and organized) needs to be as simple and clean as possible. For
example, you wouldn’t want to clutter your homepage with a dozen things about
your city’s history while barely mentioning or providing links to your most
important city services.
disabled people with vision problems often need to adjust the contrast and
sizing on their computers to see what’s on their screen. While the design
specifications for ensuring ADA compliance are complex, most modern websites
allow disabled people to adjust contrast and sizing. If you’re not sure about
your city’s website (especially if you haven’t modernized it in a long time),
then ask someone with website design experience to help you assess this aspect
disabled people cannot use a mouse and click on website content such as buttons
or links. They need to rely only on a keyboard to get to it. If you have
content on your website inaccessible by keyboard, then make it accessible as
soon as possible. You should also consider adding a “skip navigation” link so
that keyboard users can skip the often long navigation tabs (the ones seen on
every page). That will save those people from wasting a lot of time.
modern websites avoid flashing images because they look tacky. However, if you
are tempted to use them then consider that they may cause seizures in some
simply, clearly, and concisely. This is a good best practice anyway but it also
helps disabled people who need information stated as clearly as possible.
Rambling text, typos, and bad grammar prevent you from communicating to your
audience. Consider hiring a professional writer to write your content if you’re
unable to ensure a high writing standard.
is not descriptive. “January 5, 2017 City Council Agenda” is descriptive. When
disabled people use screen readers, they often look for links to take them to
another webpage. Make the text you hyperlink contain a specific description
instead of something vague.
screen readers cannot read PDF documents. If the thought of converting tons of
PDF documents to HTML or rich-text format horrifies you, then talk to your IT
staff or vendor. You may be able to find a tool that can convert your PDFs to
HTML. Then, it’s a matter of going through the PDFs you offer on your website
and creating HTML versions of each document.
employees upload content to websites, we often find that they make the mistake
of posting pre-formatted content. For example, people may cut and paste content
from a Microsoft Word document to the city’s website. The problem? Microsoft
Word content contains a lot of HTML code that makes sense when you’re working
in Microsoft Word—and not so much sense when you transfer it somewhere else.
That’s why what looked great in your word processing software can look awful on
cutting and pasting into Notepad first (a free application that comes with
nearly all computers) and then cutting and pasting the Notepad version into
your website’s content management system will remove junk formatting and
convert your words into clean, plain text.
these best practices will give you a good head start for making your website
ADA-compliant. For more detailed best practices, refer to the following
Website Accessibility Under Title II of the ADA
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
assessing the ADA compliance of your website? Reach out to us today.
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