Pandemic Sparks Web Accessibility Breakthroughs
The impact of this years’ shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines, along with every aspect of how we have coped -- or not coped -- with Covid-19 will be analyzed for years to come. Big changes have emerged in the ways that we interact with the world, and the next normal will likely bring with it many differences in the ways that we live, work, and play.
From a web accessibility perspective, the pandemic is sparking widespread changes. Now that online interactions are the primary means by which all of us are interacting with the world, we tend to be expecting more with a general understanding that the internet needs to be accessible to everyone, as well as compliant with ADA Accessibility guidelines.
Web Accessibility Advances
People of every age and with a wide range of disabilities are now working online, learning online, shopping online, connecting to medical care online, socializing online, and a lot more. We have replaced in-person events with virtual conferences, Zoom meetings and remote learning. Many medical facilities are asking patients to go online for information or even complete online visits. So how are we doing in ensuring that online activities are thoroughly accessible to people with disabilities, at a time when fighting isolation and stress can be a huge uphill battle?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2019 19.3 percent of individuals with a disability in the United States are employed. Many of these same individuals now need to work remotely, which is serving to shine a spotlight on the kinds of tools and resources that they need. Here are some of the challenges they are facing:
- Websites are often not compatible with screen readers and do not enable them to order food or supplies online.
- Documents and correspondence are often emailed without consideration given to color contrast ratios, fonts, and text size that would make them accessible to people with low vision.
- PDFs are being sent that are not created in an accessible manner, causing challenges for screen reader users.
- Video recordings of recent meetings or conferences are often sent without captions or a transcript, added. For someone who is deaf or hearing impaired, these videos can be hard to understand without a transcript or close captioning, especially in circumstances where they can not lip read.
What's Needed Now
In addition to new ways of working, so many basic services have shifted online. Everything from ordering groceries to seeking medical care has gone virtual. How much attention is being paid to the accessibility of these services?
- Complex layouts need to be simplified to make navigation accessible for individuals with cognitive disabilities.
- Animations and videos on sites need to have a pause option built in to reduce seizure risks, and in some cases, avoid interaction issues with screen readers.
- Forms need to be fully accessible by including such items as matching visual and programmatic labels, screen reader accessible requirement instructions, and accessible error notifications.
The Covid-19 pandemic is shining a bright light on the need for full web accessibility.
In an environment where all aspects of our lives have moved online, we can no longer consider web accessibility to be a “nice to have” or a feature that we can put off until a later point. Creating fully accessible websites, media, and correspondence has always been both good business and the right thing to do. Covid-19 is helping us to understand why.
Looking for information and insights on creating online experiences that are accessible, inclusive and ADA compliant? Contact us today.