Online accessibility: planning for the ADA & diversity in a digital world
Sitting squarely at the intersection of living and working during a pandemic and national discussions about equity, diversity, and inclusion is the topic of online accessibility. As even more of our daily activities are conducted in whole or in part on the Internet, we are confronting the ways in which online resources and tools were not necessarily created with people with disabilities in mind.To serve all citizens more effectively, local governments must consider how physical and mental impairments may affect a person’s ability to access and use digital resources, and then provide reasonable accommodationsjustas they would in physical spaces.
As you create digital documents and Web pages and conduct online meetings, here are a few accessibility improvements to consider:
Use color and contrast wisely. Color is a great way to capture and direct a reader’s attention, but do not rely on color alone to convey critical information. Symbols or other indicators are necessary for people with colorblindness and helpful for anyone who may need to print a document in black and white. Aim for a moderate amount of contrasttoo little can be challenging for readers with low vision, but too much may trigger neurological events like migraines or seizures.
Avoid flashing/blinking elements and automatic movement or focus changes.Much like intense contrast, flashing or blinking text, buttons, or graphics can lead to adverse neurological effects. Any movement that is not user–controlled, such as pages scrolling, images rotating, or a cursor moving from one field to another, has the potential to be disorienting to the reader. If these elements or effects cannot be avoided, provide a way for the reader to disable them.
Make text searchable and provide alternative text for images. Assistive technology such as screen readers, text-to-speech software, Braille embossers, and refreshable Braille displays cannot read or reproduce text presented as graphics. Making text searchable not only enables the use of these essential technologies, but also allows readers to extract text in order to manipulate it into a more accessible format if needed, for example by changing its size or color.
Provide alternative text for images and captions for videos. Readers who use assistive technology rely on alternative text for images to glean important information from explanatory photos, charts, or diagrams. Likewise, video captions are essential for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, and helpful for anyone who needs to watch a video with the audio muted.
Create clear and consistent structure within documents.The use of hierarchical headings, a table of contents, and a preset tab order for form fields assists readers in moving smoothly through your content without confusion. The addition of bookmarks and links makes it easy for readers to jump directly to relevant topics. These aids also give readers the option to navigate using a mouse, keyboard, or voice commandshowever they are most comfortable.
Consider alternative language options.While it may not be necessary to offer documents in multiple languages up front, have a plan in place in case someone requests an important document in another language. When preparing for a public meeting, assess what portion of your audience may speak English as a second or other language, and consider bringing a multilingual representative to provide direction or answer questions.
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