Since Chip and Joanna Gaines started putting shiplap on every wall they could find and Jonathan and Drew Scott began swinging sledgehammers and flashing smiles, everyone has become enamored with DIY projects. Every episode we watch, we see household transformations take shape in the blink of an eye, and the thought of doing it ourselves grabs us. We think, “It’s just changing out a few cabinets and picking out new paint colors. How hard can that be? I can save a ton of money and earn full bragging rights!” You set off to the nearest Lowe’s, fill your cart and start tackling the project.

It isn’t until you’re about 3 hours into the project that you realize you might have underestimated the scope of the project and over-estimated your abilities.

Taking something blah and making it worthy of layout in Southern Living seems so easy when you’re watching pros like the Gaines and the Property Brothers. But, as many have learned the hard way, in reality it’s just not that easy. There are electrical issues you didn’t foresee, unexpected plumbing problems assert themselves and the budget creeps higher and higher because you didn’t start with a good plan, the right tools and the knowledge or experience to see you through to a successful conclusion.

You could end up in a similar situation when thinking about how to make your website accessible and ADA compliant. It’s important to understand what goes into making a site accessible and to count the costs in terms of time, manpower and budget. This process begins with an ADA website accessibility test.

Assessment Overview

Getting an assessment by an experienced team puts you on a solid footing so that you know what you are dealing with. Do you have a little bit of work to do, or do you have a lot of work to do? The test will point out what’s wrong, but it will also give you the specific things you need to focus on to fix to comply with accessibility standards. You should receive a robust report that provides you with education on the issues at hand, the percentage of pass/fail in each major category according to guiding accessibility checklists and specific tactical items you can begin improving immediately if you so choose.

You may already have an idea of some items that aren’t accessible, and you might be tempted to go DIY style and start fixing those items right away. Be careful about doing this. It’s important to get a full picture of what your site needs so that you can put a master plan together in order to work on the biggest and most important items first as well as to establish a budget and timeline for work that needs done.

Tools = Checklists

Just as with any remodeling project, it’s important to have the right tools at hand when starting an ADA website accessibility test. Below are a few of the must haves an assessor will use to determine the accessibility of your site.

The assessor should use the Title II Checklist (Website Accessibility), published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, to review your website. The website accessibility checklist includes 11 yes/no questions to evaluate the level of accessibility. Fifteen additional questions determine whether your company’s website accessibility policy and procedures are in place and up to date.

These questions include elements such as:

Skip Navigation: this element is a link at the top of the page that allows users to skip the left to right navigation required when not using a mouse and using a keyboard only to get directly to the main page content.

PDF Alternatives: voice readers can’t read an image and must have an HTML based version of the same in order to read text aloud.

HTML Tags for Photos and Graphics: alt tags and long form descriptions provide an alternative for understanding what’s graphically on a page.

Videos with Audio Descriptions: videos provide a lot of visual information and those with vision impairments are missing out on this information; providing audio descriptions of what’s in the video makes your videos accessible for visually impaired users.

The assessor should also use the HTML 508 Checklist, published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, to review 67 criteria, answerable by yes or no questions, to evaluate your website’s level of accessibility.

The 508 Checklist focuses on criteria for accessibility such as images, documents, functionality and page format. A sampling of questions from the checklist include:

Images

Does text content contained in images disappear when images are not available, i.e. is there text contained in the images?

Do images that convey contextual content have equivalent alternative text specified in the alt attribute of the img element?

Documents

Does a document have a text-only version? If so, does it meet all Section 508 criteria?

Does the text-only version contain the same exact information as the original document?

Functionality

Is any content or functionality provided by JavaScript through mouse action also provided through keyboard-triggered event handlers?

Are links provided to any special readers or plug-ins that are required to interpret page content?

Page Format

If a page or application has a time limit, is the user given options to turn off, adjust, or extend that time limit?

Can interruptions be postponed or suppressed by the user, e.g. alerts, page updates, etcetera?

Testing

In addition to using the checklists, it’s important to test sites based on:

  • Screen Readers– readers produce website content in audible form
  • Text-to-Speech– a feature that assists those with cognitive disabilities to  understand content by way of highlighting and reading text verbally
  • Screen Magnification– the ability to render properly when the screen is magnified
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking– a tool that permits users to engage with your site via voice commands

Don’t make the mistake of going it alone when it comes to the accessibility of your website. You’ll save time, frustration and money by partnering with an experienced professional. Questions? Contact me today at [email protected] today to find out how we can help you.

Note: We at EnVeritas Group are not attorneys. This information should not be considered legal advice. We encourage everyone to read  the Americans with Disabilities Act, by visiting https://www.ada.gov and to review Section 508.

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