While the Americans with Disabilities Act was written long before the Internet was around, not many companies have taken accessibility into account when it comes to their websites. Because of this, and because the world is increasingly dependent on the web, ADA compliance may soon be a required part of your company’s website. Some experts believe that internet-specific guidelines may be announced within 2 years. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a web design expert to take a few small steps you can take today to make your site more accessible to everyone today.
The EEOC makes several recommendations for improving your site’s accessibility. Most of them are improvements aimed at improving the online experience for the visually impaired, as much of the internet depends on visual content. Many of these recommendations apply to Realtors. Imagine a typical Realtor’s website. You will typically find the site uses a lot of photos, videos, pdf files and brand-specific colors and fonts. All of these things can be problematic for the software used by the visually impaired to read the content of websites to them.
One way you can help make your site more ADA-friendly is to make sure to caption images. That way, when visually impaired people access your site, the site reading tool they use can read the description aloud. Fortunately, most web page creation tools offer the option to add text or caption images when you upload them. Be sure to be descriptive so the user will get a good idea of the image. Don’t just write “photo of kitchen” say something like, “this island kitchen features an efficient work triangle, gourmet appliances, and plenty of space for gathering friends.” Captioning every image will make your page easier to find for everyone else, too. Search engines look for these tags when compiling their results.
Another roadblock for assistive technologies is their inability to read PDF files. Unfortunately, this file type is interpreted as an image to most programs. If you can, post your documents in a text-based format either in place of, or in addition to, the PDF file. In many cases, you can choose to save your document as HTML or RTF. Those file types are readable to assistive technologies.
Keep in mind that people with low vision will often set their browsers to use specific colors and font sizes whenever possible. When you are setting up your website, be sure to allow user preferences and not restrict the display to your format. If you are using web design software, this will probably be an advanced option. If you have questions about whether your site restricts colors and fonts, call your provider.
In the case of videos, add closed captions whenever possible. Include descriptions of images and sounds, too. Fortunately real estate videos tend to be descriptive in the narration, so it’s a bit easier to provide good audio clues in the captions.
The EEOC also recommends limited the use of blinking or flashing images, or include the option to pause the feature when possible.
Getting into the habit of providing an accessible website broadens your audience, which is just good business sense. Tweaking a few elements now might also mean you won’t need to make many more adjustments down the road, when ADA compliance becomes mandatory.