Digital accessibility for all: the assistive technologies that read your website

The world wide web literally puts the world in our pockets. The opportunities to learn new languages, shop for cars (or even houses in 2020), and book flights (ha, someday) are unlimited. Unless you have a disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination against individuals with diabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.

Informally, 98 percent of websites fail the test of being accessible to those with disabilities. Tools that assist users include:

  • Screen readers
  • Text enlargement software
  • Programs that allow people to control the computer with their voice
  • Operation systems that adjust color schemes, contrast settings, and font sizes
  • Using keystrokes instead of a mouse

A poorly designed site creates a frustrating user experience for those who do not have limitations. Those frustrations are even higher for those with disabilities.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the leading authority for web content accessibility. In fact, they produced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 for all of us to read and enjoy. Yes, it’s complex. No, you can’t do it all at once.

The WCAG 2.1 has described and provided guides for the following digital content categories: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Thankfully, there are three levels, so don’t panic: A, AA, and AAA. If we all start with meeting A level standards and continue to work our way up, the digital world will be a better place.

The idea of making a site fully accessible is truly daunting. However, if you look through the lens of compassion and empathy, you can begin to take simple, easy steps to make your site not just accessible, but  better for all users.


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