Global Accessibility Awareness Day
Thursday May 19, 2022 marks the eleventh annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Access to digital content is something that many take for granted, but today, we consider the barriers that people with disabilities have to overcome each and every day.
Over a billion people are affected by disabilities worldwide, with roughly 61 million people in the US. The American Foundation for the Blind’s 2018 survey found that 13% of adults are blind or have trouble seeing even with corrective lenses. And with an aging baby boomer generation, that number is increasing.
That’s a significant number of people who all have a right by the Americans with Disabilities Act to have access to “places of public accommodations”, which now commonly includes websites, web-based apps, and mobile apps.
Yet only a small percentage of websites and apps are without barriers. Each year WebAIM initiative at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University tests the top 1 million websites. The WebAIM Million report this year revealed that 98% of those pages had failures of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, with an average of 51 barriers per page.
The WCAG is the de facto international standard that Sect 508 of the Disabilities Act and the American Disabilities Act. The lack of ADA website compliance has become a huge liability to website owners in recent years, as web-related ADA lawsuits climb year after year.
Is My Company's Website Accessible?
Unless your website was originally designed and built for accessibility, or subsequently properly audited (with humans) and remediated, you can bet it is not. So how about a quick test. While automated testing tools can only detect ~30% of WCAG issues (why human testing is so important), it will provide a quick sense of compliance. Here are two well known automated testing tools that will provide results in seconds
Next, share those results with colleagues and those that can influence the digital accessibility for your company's website.
Walk a mile in their shoes.
In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in awareness and focus on improving diversity, equity and inclusion. And the need for digital inclusion - especially highlighted by the pandemic, has put further pressure on brands to ensure their mobile apps and website are WCAG compliant.
Still, many people are not even aware of these barriers or even how people with disabilities access apps and websites with assistive technologies. The most common WCAG failures include low contrast text, missing image labels, missing input labels, empty links, missing document language and empty buttons.
Many app and website owners may simply assume their digital properties are accessible. As is evidenced by the WebAIM Million report, that certainly is not the case. Unless a mobile app or website is specifically designed and built following accessibility best practices, they simply are not.
How to Make Your Website Accessibile and ADA Compliant
The action steps that organizations, institutions, municipalities and commercial brands should follow include
- Establish digital accessibility as a funded priority.
- Designate a person or team to build awareness, establish policy, and see that digital inclusion is seen through and maintained.
- Conduct audits of mobile apps and websites by a reputable accessibility consultancy using best practices that include manual and assistive technology testing to identify barriers.
- Train designers, developers and content authors.
- Remediate digital properties to address barriers.
- Establish a schedule for on-going auditing.
Avoid “Overlay” Widgets and Plugins
Despite all the promises and claims, these companies do not deliver what they promise, and opposition to these companies is growing rapidly. And the increasing number of lawsuits against companies already using overlays indicates that the widgets themselves are a flag for click-by trolls. Further information about why overlays are to be avoided.
On this day, take a moment to consider what it must be like to be a person with a disability facing such barriers in a digital world that others simply take for granted. Share this and other articles with colleagues. And challenge your organization or company to make digital accessibility a funded priority this year.