ADA Accessibility? What in the world is that?
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
One of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Though the name ADA might not be widely known, most people are familiar with the physical accommodations businesses make for Americans with Disabilities, such as automatic door openers, wheelchair ramps, and braille text on signage. But what people don't know is that the ADA applies to the virtual world as well.
ADA Accessibility for the world wide web
Under the law, websites should be just as accessible as ATMs (ever notice the Braille there?), elevators, terminals and other user interfaces. Not only should your site be accessible to all on a laptop or desktop but also on tablets and mobile phones. Failing ADA compliance creates poor and awkward experiences for people with physical disabilities.
Where the trouble is...
What does that mean?
So what can and should you do?
There are certain measures everyone can and should take when designing websites to make sure their website is accessible to all types of users. These include but are not limited to:
- keyboard navigation functionality for physical impairments
- alternate text for images for visual impairments
- various color modes for visual impairments
- text scaling and size increases for visual impairments
- text to speech device capabilities
No two people browse the internet the same way, there are multiple angles to consider when it comes to the user perspective of web accessibility and though you may not be able to address all of them, it's good practice to at least be aware of the key points.
For example, those American's who are color blind don't see fancy website designs with neon and pastel colors in the same way others do. Sometimes, but not always, many contrasting images and web elements displayed wont have the desired effect on such individuals.
In these cases, it's important to be aware that the best method to take is the simplest one. If you're going to design your website, try to follow the ADA's color contrast guidelines. More information on proper color combinations can be found here.
Keyboard accessibility is one of the most important aspects of web accessibility. Many users with motor disabilities rely on a keyboard. Blind users also typically use a keyboard for navigation. Some people have tremors which don't allow for fine muscle control. Others have little or no use of their hands. Some people simply do not have hands, whether due to a birth defect, an accident, or amputation. In addition to traditional keyboards, some users may use modified keyboards or other hardware that mimics the functionality of a keyboard.
In order to follow correct keyboard navigation protocol, you might need to hire a web developer, because much of this requires manipulation of your websites code. You can learn more about how keyboard navigation effects Americans with Disabilities here.