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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
The Importance of Website Accessibility
>Did you know that the option to make your website accessible to the blind, dyslexic or deaf was even a possibility? I hadn’t even thought of it. But it appears that, eventually, we will all be required to accommodate the handicapped. I have no problem with this, as I find it totally necessary, but the question is, how?
Currently there is a software available coined a “screen reader,” which, is purchased by the PC user and put on their computer and, when the code on the website is correct, the program reads the text out loud to the user, using braille-enabled keyboard commands rather than a mouse.
That is one option that will probably be phased out, however, due to the current changes and technological upgrades of latest websites. Those that provide videos and visual/auditory content should be providing closed-captioning for hard-of-hearing users, but there isn’t much out there that can keep up with the current video technology. And what about those who have a hard time manipulating a keyboard or mouse? Currently, the options are rather limited.
But that will have to change sometime in the near future, as class action lawsuits are beginning to pop up on the radar. California, in particular, has seen a lot of action in this regard. In 2006, the National Federation of the Blind filed a suit against Target because they failed and refused to make their website accessible to the blind, violating both federal and state laws.
Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act, dealing with the access standards for electronic and information technology, requires that all federal (and private-sector firms doing business with the federal government) websites must be handicapped-accessible. However, when it comes to small businesses and private corporations, the rules are not quite defined yet.
While coding your website to accommodate the handicapped may seem like a pain, it is completely worth it, not only for the handicapped, but also for your business. Obviously, making your website handicapped-accessible will bring in more customers. Additionally, because the coding for the screen reader program makes the website more text oriented, it will also help to raise your search engine rankings.
The cost to renovate your website for this particular coding can range from $5,000 to $15,000. Yes, that’s a pretty large chunk of change, but it will be beneficial in the end… and eventually it will be required anyway.
Additionally, if you’re just getting started and haven’t established a website for your business yet, it shouldn’t cost you much extra that what your web designer is already charging you to make your website handicapped-accessible, so you might as well go ahead and do it from the start. Just make sure you have a web designer that is familiar with the coding and the screen reader program.
HTML savvy? Here are 10 quick tips for assured website accessibility:
1) Images & animations: Use the alt attribute to describe the function of each visual.
2) Image maps: Use the client-side map and text for hotspots.
3) Multimedia: Provide captioning and transcripts of audio, and descriptions of video.
4) Hypertext links: Use text that makes sense when read out of context. For example, avoid “click here.”
5) Page organization: Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Use CSS for layout and style where possible.
5) Graphs & charts: Summarize or use the longdesc attribute.
6) Scripts, applets, & plug-ins: Provide alternative content in case active features are inaccessible or unsupported.
7) Frames: Use the noframes element and meaningful titles.
8) Tables: Make line-by-line reading sensible. Summarize.
9) Check your work.
10) Validate: Use tools, checklist, and guidelines at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG
Â© W3C (MIT, INRIA, Keio) 2001/01
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