“Website accessibility is this generation’s wheelchair ramp.” - Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
This summer Miami Lighthouse for the Blind audited the accessibility of the campaign websites for each of the United States presidential candidates only to find that each of the websites was incredibly inaccessible for those who are blind or visually impaired.
The Internet has been around since the 80s, computers have been around even longer, and web design is continuously improving. With advancements in technology we can and should strive to be more inclusive. In the past we didn’t have the ability to make everything accessible, but there aren’t technology barriers anymore. We have the technology to be better so why aren’t we? In 2019 we have a moral responsibility to create an accessible internet.
We can have contrast, color, text options, images, and we can have accessibility.
It’s important to serve everyone with your website. Web accessibility means your content is accessible to those with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual impairments. Accessibility also means your site is available to those viewing without disabilities who may not have prime access to the content because they are on mobile phones or other small screens. Accessibility even means being accessible for those who have “situational limitations” and, for example, can not currently listen to audio, and for those who have a temporary disability.
Today we really can’t imagine a government building not having the physical modifications needed for accessibility so why are we still developing web pages that don’t meet visual accessibility standards?
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” -Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Web Accessibility and The Law
The facts are that while the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits state and local government (Title II) and commercial facilities (Title III) from discriminating on the basis of disability for all public services and programs, there are currently no clear guidelines from the United States Department of Justice regarding enforcement of or clear definition for website accessibility. With no direct ADA accessibility regulation, in 2018 over 10,000 ADA Title III Lawsuits were filed, and since the landmark Winn-Dixie case, courts are increasingly ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.
This puts government organizations and companies with the best of intentions in a difficult position.
Although never officially defined as a standard for the United States, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that have become the defacto standard for accessibility, outlining technical recommendations, techniques, and best practices. WCAG 2.0 AA has outlined guidelines for what an accessible website should look like including the overarching standards that a website is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
These standards address the basics of making a website that is accessible for all.
Our Opportunity To Make An Impact
With the federal government bowing out of accessibility oversight, we believe it is now our responsibility alongside our local partners to pick up the slack. We are happy to say the mySidewalk’s shared content is fully ADA compliant, meets WCAG Version 2.0 Level AA accessibility guidelines, and is built with consideration for physical and visual impairments.
Our shared reports and dashboards support keyboard-only navigation and switch access devices, color-blind-friendly color schemes and adaptable design for any screen resolution or page magnification setting, and alternate data tables and accessibility descriptions for complex visualizations. Learn more about how we have made our shared assets accessible here.
More important to us than passing an accessibility test is living up to our company's mission of empowering the city leaders and the public with the most complete, clear, and real-time understanding of their communities so they can improve and innovate together. “The public” in our mission includes everyone and does not exclude the members of the community living with impairments.
Over 7 million people in the United States are currently living with a vision disability. A poorly designed website creates barriers to access that the web was made to remove. Rather than transcending barriers, a poorly designed site can increase hurdles for everyone.
We believe that it is imperative to serve those community members with a usable experience. Our team is committed to continually improve this experience for people living with disabilities and making sure our customers can reach as many of the members of their community as possible.
Want to learn more about making choices to improve accessibility? Sign up for our webinar, Dashboard Design Best Practices: Designing for Accessibility, where the mySidewalk design team will go over how color choices impact the accessibility of your dashboard.