The beauty product brand Glossier is the latest in a parade of brands who have been sued for accessibility violations on their websites. The visually impaired plaintiff, Kathleen Sypert, claims Glossier violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by failing to have proper screen reading software on their website. Lawsuits over web accessibility have been increasing.
The ADA is a civil rights law that encourages equal opportunity for all people with disabilities. The law currently applies to physical, brick-and-mortar storefront accessibility; however, the law has not been amended to directly protect web accessibility. A series of recent lawsuits are seeking to change the scope of this law that was created in 1990 when the internet was just beginning to surface.
Sypert claims that Glossier previously denied her the opportunity to utilize the services offered on the website – services enjoyed by people without disabilities – and that they continued to deny her access to those goods and services on a regular basis.
Other megabrands have had similar lawsuits filed against them including J. Crew, Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, Perry Ellis, and Versace. Most have settled out of court and have promised to add accessibility to their websites for the visually and hearing impaired.
The attorney in most of these cases, Thomas Bacon, argues that websites are part of the public domain, and everyone, including those with audio and visual impairments, should have access. Bacon reasons that since most of the sites were designed and created after the ADA became law in 1990, there is really no reason for them not to be accessible.
Designing your website with accessibility in mind can be a daunting task, especially since there are so many options for making a website accessible. To get started, consider these basic design features, which meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Associate a label with every form control: Labels help readers understand the required input for the form field. Create labels by using a for attribute on the <label> element linked to the IDattribute of the form element or by using WAI-ARIA attributes.
Include Alternative Text for Images: Alternative text describes images to viewers (and search engines). Include alternative text for informational and functional images. Decorative images should have empty text alternatives.
Identify Page Language and Language Changes: Identify page language and language changes of every page by using the lang attribute in the html tag.
Use Markup to Convey Meaning and Structure: Using the right mark-up for headings, lists, tables, and more will improve the structure of your content.
Help Users Avoid and Correct Mistakes: If your website will include forms, plan on including clear instructions, messages, and notifications to assist with completing forms. It also helps to give specific explanations, corrections, and to provide a very forgiving format.
Other helpful tips for designing your website with accessibility in mind include:
having the reading order match the logical order of the information presented
helping the user understand nonstandard interactive elements
When a page loads on a website, your visitors who use keyboard or screen readers are forced to wade through all sorts of information. This includes the name of the organization, page title, site navigation, and more until they finally reach the page’s unique content. Within that same website, the website visitors encounter all unnecessary information every time they open a new page. Skip Links help people with disabilities find the content they need without this hassle.
This repetitive process can be annoying and time-consuming for anyone, but it’s surely worse for someone with a visual disability who relies on keyboard or screen readers.
Wikipedia defines a Skip Linkas “an internal link at the beginning of a hypertext document that permits users to skip navigational material and quickly access the document’s main content. Skip Links are particularly useful for users who access a document with screen readers and users who rely on keyboards”.
Users can bypass all the junk and go directly to the important content they are seeking. They are absolutely crucial for web accessibility. And if designed creatively, they can match the look and feel of the website and not stand out like a sore thumb.
To see some good examples of Skip Links that blend in well with the website brand, visit some of these sites for inspiration.
The information above was entirely curated from Knowbility’s article Skip Links Design Showcase. If you want your site to be more accessible, consider adding Skip Links. Skip links help people with disabilities find the content they need while making your site accessible. Read the article for more detailed information.
According to the American Foundation for the Blind, 26.9 million adult Americans report having trouble seeing, even with glasses or contacts, or they are completely blind. Any visual impairment can make it extremely difficult for someone using a computer to interpret what they see. It’s important that your website is accessible to the visually impaired.
To ensure your website is accessible, follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and create user interface design and visual design using the most accessible and easy-to-interpret methods possible to assist the visually impaired. Below are some best practices to follow.
Provide Sufficient Contrast between Foreground and Background: If foreground texts and background colors are too similar, they can be difficult to read. Use recommended “Contrast ratio” for images, buttons, and other elements, but not for logos or text in a photograph.
Don’t Use Color Alone to Convey Information: In addition to using colors to differentiate elements, also use symbols (e.g. asterisk, bullet point, dashes), numbers, or labels to show differentiation between elements, areas, graphs, etc. Adding a pattern to a color is another useful method.
Make Sure Interactive Elements Are Easy to Identify: For easy identification, change the appearance of links on mouse over, keyboard focus, and touchscreen activation.
Provide Clear and Consistent Navigation Options: Have clear navigation options by using consistent naming, styling, and positioning. Also use multiple methods of website navigation in addition to orientation cues, like breadcrumbs and clear headings.
Make Sure That Form Elements Include Clearly Associated Labels: All fields should have a descriptive label with minimum space between labels and fields.
Provide Easily Identifiable Feedback: Make feedback (confirmation, alerts, notification) easily identifiable. Feedback needing user action should use a prominent style.
Create Designs for Different Viewport Sizes: Change position and presentation of main elements (e.g. header, navigation) to optimize use of space. Adjusting text size and line width will maximize readability.
Include Image and Media Alternatives in Your Design: Use alternatives for images and media such as visible links to transcripts of audio, text with icons and buttons, and captions / descriptions for tables and graphs.
Harvard University is moving forward into the digital age by announcing their latest initiative to better serve students with disabilities. This initiative is aimed at making their digital content accessible and inclusive to those with disabilities.
The University’s commitment to accessibility speaks volumes about their goals for inclusivity to their current and prospective students, as well as the public. To start, they will convene a new Accessibility Steering Committee (ASC). Harvard also plans on periodically reviewing their digital content and accessibility policy to stay up to date as technology continues to evolve. A few examples of the new policy include easy navigation by screen readers, alternative text for images, and color contrast considerations. This new policy is a great example of what prioritizing audiences with disabilities looks like and how important it is to make all content accessible and available to users.
While a professional audit is important in the process of making a website accessible, community engagement can help uncover a great deal more. When engaging your user community, the SYSTEM USABILITY SCALE (SUS) is a simple, yet reliable system for measuring accessibility.
The SUS is a scale that measures the results from an information-gathering tool consisting of a set of 10 statements. Each statement has a choice of five responses ranging from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” The SUS is widely used to evaluate the usability of computer-related products and services and was created in 1986 by John Brooke. It is now an industry standard and is often referenced in written publications.
The SUS is a quick and effective tool used to score users’ opinions of a system’s ease of use, effectiveness, efficiency, satisfaction, and overall compatibility. Some of the evaluation questions refer to perceived complexity, opinions of system functions, and confidence in the system.
Scores are calculated in a marginally complex manner and then converted to a number. The scores are between 0 and 100, and research has shown that a 68 is considered average.
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