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Podcast Episode 38: Make Your Website ADA Compliant

Jeffrey Lambert
Nov 12, 2019 3:16:48 PM

In 1972 the U.S. Gov passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, a wide-sweeping set of laws aimed at making sure businesses make accommodations for people with disabilities. 

We have some quick tips on how you can make sure you website meets regulations. That’s next on Inbound Academy!

Episode Transcript


Jeff Lambert:                00:00                In 1972 the US Government passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was a wide sweeping set of laws aimed at making sure businesses make accommodations for people with disabilities. We have some quick tips on how you can make sure your website meets those regulations. That's next on inbound Academy.

Jeff Lambert:                00:32                Hello everybody and welcome to Inbound Academy brought to you by Rizen. I am your host, Jeff Lambert. I'm back in the chair for this episode after letting Rod take over for the previous one. And on this week's episode we're going to be talking about inclusion, making sure that your business is accommodating every customer that you come in contact with. You know, we're used to seeing things like physical accommodations at stores like wheelchair ramps and accessible bathrooms and sight and hearing aids. And that takes care of the physical limitations that individuals might experience. Their digital experiences should be inclusive as well and should be able to be accessible for anybody. So we need to talk about why that's important and how businesses can make that adjustment. So here to explain this topic a bit more deeply and to provide some guidance on some things that you can do is Nicole Mena. She's the creative Director at Rizen. Nicole, welcome back.

Nichole Mena:              01:28                Well, thanks for having me again, Jeff.

Jeff Lambert:                01:30                Absolutely. Yeah. So you know, this is a, this is a topic I think we're all familiar with. We know that there's wheelchair ramps and elevators and physical accommodations for, you know, people as they go about their lives traveling physically, but that also reaches over into the digital space as well. And it's so important to make sure that you're covering all your bases, especially for specific business types. And you know, I honestly haven't had an experience where I've run into someone who has had to experience the frustration of a digital limitation. But certainly in a physical sense, you know, my mother, she has to use a wheelchair to get around everywhere. And when we go to a place that doesn't have accessibility options, it is very frustrating because all of a sudden that option is closed to us. So I can imagine that there's a similar frustration for people that are trying to access something digitally and they're not able to experience that. That full experience that we all get to enjoy as well. That's right.

Jeff Lambert:                02:32                So I guess let's start off with a mini history lesson for everybody. And I mentioned it in the preview, you know, the Americans With Disabilities Act, it was passed in 1990 and in 1990 the web was really just kicking off, right? I mean what are we talking about in terms of technology in 1990? Nicole, do you remember?

Nichole Mena:              02:50                Um, vaguely, but it was definitely the Stone Age. The internet and accessibility was not even, not even an option. I believe.

Jeff Lambert:                03:03                So yeah, I remember things like using Lycos for a search engine or Netflix Navigator. Like that's when we used AOL. You know the "welcome" and "you've got mail." So we've come a long way obviously since that time. So the ADA, the Americans With Disabilities Act doesn't specifically address requirements for websites, online requirements, but there's been amendments that have been passed more in recent memory. Right, Nicole?

Nichole Mena:              03:35                Yeah, that's true. So I mean, it's a complicated issue and like you said, the Internet is still pretty new considering and really lawmakers are trying to keep up. So you know, "Title III" of the ADA requires that everyday owners, leasers, or operator of a quote unquote public place of public accommodation provide equal access to users who meet ADA standards of accessibility. And really with 1.6 billion people around the world making online purchases last year alone, it really seems that digital sites have a good chance of being lumped in.

Jeff Lambert:                04:20                That is a lot of people, 1.6 billion purchases online and we know that, uh, you know, uh, in ever-growing part of the population needs accessibility options. So I guess a good place to start. If I'm a business owner, I'm really measuring everything I do based on my bottom line. Can I afford to do this? I mean, I think we can all agree it's the right thing to do to be able to make your website as accessible to everybody as possible. What are the regulations around this? Like can I get a fine or go to jail if my website doesn't meet this amendment in the ADA?

Nichole Mena:              05:03                Yes, absolutely. And right now it's up to the courts to decide because there's so much gray area, so it's better to be safe and make sure that your website is accessible for everyone. But just the case in August of 2016, there was a case involving the University of California at Berkeley. The college was sued by a student because a YouTube video on their channel didn't include captions for hearing-impaired visitors, and the Department of Justice found this to violate the ADA because deaf users did not have access to the online content. So if your business falls under Title I, those that operate, say 20 or more weeks per year and employ at least 15 full time employees and is considered a public accommodation, this role really applies to you. And you know, if you don't comply, this can leave you open to lawsuits, government oversight, and damage of brand reputation at the end.

Jeff Lambert:                06:14                So this is something business owners really need to take seriously because the precedents there, you just mentioned UC Berkeley, that's a big university. They just went through a lawsuit process.

Nichole Mena:              06:23                Yes they did. And yeah, if it applies to you, you need to move on it right now. For sure.

Jeff Lambert:                06:30                So I guess let's jump into, where we can start? You know, as business owners, we're working with our web developers or we have someone in-house taking care of this. So you mentioned that it's kind of on a case by case basis, right? Like the courts are deciding if you fall under those provisions. So I guess if the ADA requirements are just a bit older and there's that gray area, how do I know what to do? Are there any guidelines that I can follow?

Nichole Mena:              06:57                There are what's called the "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines" that was put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium, which is like the United Nations of the Internet, if you will. They put that out this year. So it's the best tool to use right now to make sure your website is compliant and really it rates your website on four categories using the P.O.U.R. acronym. So P.O.U.R. is it perceivable, is it operable, is it understandable, and is it robust?

Jeff Lambert:                07:32                Okay, so why don't we go ahead and break those down one by one then, because you know that that's a lot of information, but it's good that we have a set guideline that we can follow if we're going to hand this off to our developers or do this ourselves. And I'll make sure to put a link to the P.O.U.R. guidelines in the show notes for our listeners so you can just click and go to be able to start rolling this out. So with that said, Nicole, let's jump in. Breaking these down one by one you mentioned, a letter in the P.O.U.R. acronym is obviously "p" for perceivable. What does that refer to?

Nichole Mena:              08:05                So this refers to like user's ability to find and process that information. So I'll give you a couple of samples. For those with vision or hearing issues, they rely on content being structured so you can really easily navigate it. Semantic HTML for all written text, like headers which convey more meaning to those who may only have one way to process that information. A person with low vision can't view a video on your site. Is there an option for them to get an audio description of that content? Make sure "alt text" in your images. This allows for audio description generation. A resource you can use is, You can add your URL to your YouTube video and you can record descriptions for your content for blind and low-vision users.

Jeff Lambert:                09:05                So these examples, to make sure that your website is perceivable, they seem like they're not too hard to be able to implement. So I guess, just going back to the first one you mentioned, making sure that you're using semantic HTML. When I'm writing up a script for my website or editing a webpage, we're just talking about like using the "H1" tag or the "H2" tag or those kinds of things, right?

Nichole Mena:              09:27                Yeah, that's correct. That's correct.

Jeff Lambert:                09:29                And if I'm in like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, there's an easy way to be able to add those, correct?

Nichole Mena:              09:35                Yup. You just a format. Highlight and format at the top button there and it'll give you a dropdown for which heading title to use. So it's pretty easy.

Jeff Lambert:                09:46                Got it. And I'm throwing this at you a little bit blind, but I seem to remember reading that Google actually does rank websites on their use of semantic HTML. Correct?

Nichole Mena:              09:55                Okay. It is, yes. So it's part of the SEO strategies to make sure that you have those tags in place so that the search engines can read through your content more efficiently.

Jeff Lambert:                10:10                Got it. And then you mentioned somebody with low vision. If they're on your website and they can't see a video that you've posted an audio description is literally describing what's on the screen with each scene, correct?

Nichole Mena:              10:26                Yes, yes. Even if I'm highlighting certain content thenthere is an option to read it back. So I even use that sometimes depending on what I'm doing.

Jeff Lambert:                10:40                Sure. Yeah. It's nice to have an audio option and you can literally just go to the website you mentioned, which I'll put in the show notes, you add the URL to your YouTube video and you're good to go. That's great. And just to break down one more piece of that, Nicole, how do I add alt-text to my images if I'm in a website editor? Is that a simple process?

Nichole Mena:              10:59                Well, it does depend on the website editor, but if it's a robust editor, then you just have to edit the image and it'll give you an option to add in that alt-text. So you want to be descriptive with your alt-text to make sure that it's properly describing what's in the images.

Jeff Lambert:                11:15                Got it. So we're talking almost like a sentence describing what's happening in the photo. Is that a fair?

Nichole Mena:              11:21                Yeah, it can be a sentence, but it can be a short phrase. It doesn't have to be very long.

Jeff Lambert:                11:25                Got it. Okay. So great. So you know, making a website perceivable seems like a pretty straightforward process for people to be able to optimize their websites. Why don't we go to the next one? So again, going back to the P.O.U.R. acronym we're talking about. "O" which stands for operable, what does that mean?

Nichole Mena:              11:43                So operable refers to a user's ability to navigate and use a website. So let's say a user can only use a keyboard and can't use a mouse, and you have your social media links at the bottom of your page. They can usually only be activated with a click of a mouse, right? So there needs to be another option or another way to click that link. Maybe with a keyboard command or what I've seen used is the the tab key to move across the page and be able to select it. So that's one way.

Nichole Mena:              12:19                Another is that let's say you have an online form on your site that asks a user to select multiple options from a dropdown menu. If the user uses the control key and the clicks options, there needs to be another way to select them. So there's another resource we have for you to add an accessibility widget to your website. That's a great option. There's one called Equalweb. It offers a free widget that shows up on your site and it allows users to just adjust, let's say the color, the font, and the cursor size. They can highlight links and headers or see those image descriptions. And there's also a text reader that can be activated on there as well.

Jeff Lambert:                13:08                Got it. So yeah, we need to keep that in mind. Not everybody has the physical capability to be able to use a mouse or a trackpad to get around the different parts of the website. Okay. You know, you mentioned about the, the dropdown menus, and honestly, I've never thought of that before. When you have like a multiple click option, you need to be able to click multiple options. So yeah, I'm really for the first time thinking about what an experience a digital experience must be like for someone with with limitations, especially in this case, physical limitations. It must be extremely frustrating to want to participate in something and not to be able to.

Jeff Lambert:                13:47                Well, why don't we go to the next one? So we've got our perceivable, we have operable. The next one in the P.O.U.R. acronym would be understandable. What am I measuring according to the understandable rule?

Nichole Mena:              14:01                All right, so understandable refers to the user's ability to, obviously, understand the website's content and learn and remember how to use the Interface. So, for example, if every page on a website displays the same set of links in a different order, it slows down the user's ability to use and understand the flow of the site. So you want to make sure your visual presentation is organized and uniform across the site.

Jeff Lambert:                14:34                So that's a great point about like having links if you have links in a certain place, making sure they're in the same order. I guess that would refer to everything rightly. Your navigation tabs, your headers, you want to have uniformity as well?

Nichole Mena:              14:46                Yeah, some uniformity.

Jeff Lambert:                14:47                Okay. So that's a great tip. Any other examples of what this could apply to?

Nichole Mena:              14:51                Yeah. So a registration form on your website requires users to add an email and a phone number. When they try to submit the form, if they get an error, but it doesn't specify where the error is and how to fix it. Now the user can't understand why the form can't be submitted. So you want to make sure that the error prompts on your forms are specific and working on all input areas on your site.

Jeff Lambert:                15:21                That is the worst! I've had that happen before where you fill out like a five-minute form and then it says "changes are required" when you submit and you have to like literally scroll through the whole thing and hope you find the box that's highlighted in red. So sometimes it doesn't appear. So it's frustrating.

Jeff Lambert:                15:36                And you're absolutely right. Sometimes it just doesn't show up and you're stuck in this guessing game. So I can see why. I mean for everybody, that would certainly be a feature that would be worth putting into play. Now that's more of a back-end type of thing, right? Like I would have to probably talk to my developer to implement something like this?

Nichole Mena:              15:55                Yeah. That's basically checking for dead links. Um, so I mean, and that's a really important and easy place to start off and meet the standards because you want to make sure that all of your things are working properly. So you can use something like the online broken link checker at It basically scans your site for these dead links for free. And then you can advise your developer to fix those things for you.

Jeff Lambert:                16:21                Great. Okay. So there is a straightforward way to kind of be able to at least identify the issues on your site. Alright? So we have perceivable, we have operable, we have understandable. So that brings us to the last letter in our P.O.U.R. acronym, which is robust. What the heck does that refer to?

Nichole Mena:              16:39                Okay, so users should have a choice in which technology they use to interact with a website's media and online documents. So for example, a website has features that require you to use Google Chrome. And if a user doesn't or can't use that browser, how can that user experience the features of this site, right? Another example is an online training video requires a paid plugin to play in a web browser. If the user can play the video in an accessible video player, how can he or she participate in the training? So this is another frustration for sure.

Jeff Lambert:                17:21                Sure. That, that makes perfect sense because you may not have the ability to access certain softwares based on income level or technology. you know, we're not just talking about physical disabilities here, we're talking about accessibility even financially to be able to access features. And yeah, there's even users that choose not to use certain softwares based on ethical reasons. There's a pretty good subset of the population that is becoming more wary of Google and their services because of the tracking features that are often tied into it. So I'm a dedicated Firefox user. One that takes privacy more seriously. I should have the option to be able to access these different things in the browser of my choice. That's a good point, Nicole.

Nichole Mena:              18:07                Yeah.

Jeff Lambert:                18:08                Are there any resources you could recommend to make sure that my offerings are robust? That I'm giving users a choice?

Nichole Mena:              18:17                Yes, there definitely is. So there is a Google feature that you can use. It's called the "Mobile Friendly Test and it's a really great way to see how "open your content is" to everyone regardless of the device they're using. So content may have worked really well on a computer when it's accessed with a mouse and keyboard, right? It may not be easy to use when accessed on a tablet with only using the touch. So we need to make sure that you know the accessibility is across each of the devices as well.

Jeff Lambert:                18:55                Got it. So there's four acronyms here for me to follow. P.O.U.R. And we've given some straightforward ways to be able to accomplish this. Now this kind of begs the question, we've talked about that there is a law that covers that you need to make sure that your site is accessible. You have the resources now to be able to do that. Where on my priority list, should I put this? At this top of the list? Bottom of the list? What would you recommend?

Nichole Mena:              19:19                Yeah, fair question. So big changes to laws probably will be slow to evolve, but there is precedent and there are already guidelines that you can follow and should follow. It should be really a mid-to-long term project for sure. Just make sure it's on the list of things to begin doing in the foreseeable future; especially if you're one of those businesses that that can be affected right away.

Jeff Lambert:                19:44                Yeah. I would assume people, especially like you said in the education sphere or who served communities who need accessibility more so than others. You know, I can think of like theme parks or, like you said, public service types of situations you would definitely want to cover that.

Jeff Lambert:                20:02                I guess, as a final question Nicole, in terms of accessibility overall, is there a moral precedent here that we should also talk about? Do you think that, I mean, is it the right thing to do for us to make our websites accessible?

Nichole Mena:              20:20                I absolutely think we should be thinking about this when creating websites to include everyone. So yes, I do think that is okay. That should be top of mind for designers and developers and then people with businesses that want to be inclusive. So yes.

Jeff Lambert:                20:39                Okay. Well Nicole, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing some of these tips with our listeners.

Nichole Mena:              20:43                Thank you so much for having me Jeff.

Jeff Lambert:                20:45                Until next time. So to our audiences. Thank you. You joined us again for another episode and we appreciate your patronage. And remember, you can expect a new episode every week. It's always going to be filled with advice that's going to help you grow your business. And remember, if you're looking for an experienced, friendly, and results-driven team that can help you with your business, checkout Rizen by going to go You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn by searching for the username RizenInbound. Remember, you can help us reach new people too. If you just take a moment to leave a review on your podcast app of choice, you could even just do the stars and not leave an actual text review. But any chance where you can help us be able to rank up a little bit higher. Okay. If you're enjoying what we're doing, we would appreciate that support. So thanks again for all you do for tuning in and supporting the show, and we hope this has been a value for you in whatever business you find yourself in. And remember, we will see you on the next episode next week.


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