A couple of weeks ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turned 25 years old and Wired Magazine came out with a nice article on some of the latest computer accessibility technology. So, today I thought I’d write a post about how to best serve people with disabilities when it comes to the content on your website.
Here is a definition of the act if you need a refresher:
The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life– ADA.gov
There is evidence all around us of the ADA’s implementation in the real world, like sidewalk ramps, braille elevator buttons, and service dogs allowed in restaurants.
But, what about online? What adaptations can we make to our websites to make them more accessible to patients with disabilities?
Here are three of the easiest ones you can implement yourself:
1. Graphic Elements
Many people with low vision use adaptive technology to help them peruse websites. These devices often translate text into speech or braille but can’t read graphic elements–such as drawings, photos, graphs, and logos, as well as any text embedded in images.
To make the content of graphics accessible, you need to provide a text alternative. You can do this using HTML code by adding an alt tag with your text in quotes. For example, the image above has this alt tag:
alt=”braille display used to increase website accessibility”
If you create your blog in WordPress, there is a handy box where you can put in your text without knowing a thing about HTML code. Here is what it looks like when I click the edit button on the image above:
My desktop is littered with PDFs (Portable Document Format). They are easy to download and print and lots of people make their content available in this format (for free). The problem with PDFs is that they are like image files and not easily adapted for people with disabilities.
Using text file formats also (or instead) will allow assistive technologies to make the content available via audio, braille, or font changes for those who need it.
To do this, I recommend putting the content of your document on a web page using HTML or RTF (Rich Text Format). You can always provide a PDF download at the bottom for those who prefer that.
3. Audio/Video Files
Amy and I love listening to podcasts (here are some great ones). Other people love to learn via instructional videos, like those on Lynda.com. You will capture more website visitors if you provide a variety of formats for your content (Read more about that here).
The problem with these formats can be that they can still exclude certain web-users. People who are hard of hearing, for example, will be able to watch your video or screencast, but they won’t be able to hear it. Those with low vision, of course, will be able to listen to your podcast but won’t get the visual content in your videos or slideshows.
These elements can be overcome with careful thought in their production but also with these easy fixes: provide transcripts to go along with your video and audio files; and use captions on your slideshows and screencasts.
If you want to learn more about making your website more accessible, check out the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit here.
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Photo Credit: © Dennis Kornilov/ Dollar Photo Club