ADA lawsuits on website accessibility have become a big, scary topic lately in the credit union world. We’ve fielded so many calls and questions from credit unions that we’ve ended up writing multiple blog posts and giving free webinars on the topic.
But with the right mindset, improving accessibility is actually an opportunity to make your site work better for everyone, not just people with disabilities. A better organized, more meaningful site is more useful and it’s more understandable to search engines. And what is good for Google is good for your website popping up more often in search results.
Here are a few steps you can take right now to build a better site that works for everyone:
Fill In Missing ALT Text
Every image on your website should have a short ALT attribute that describes the image (when you mouse over an image in most browsers, the ALT text pops up). It’s easy to add ALT text in any CMS, but sometimes ALT text gets forgotten as different people maintain a web site. Make sure the ALT text is actually correct and useful, or it could be flagged as irrelevant. And make sure it’s short and to the point.
There are a couple of different ways to find images lurking on your site missing ALT text. One easy way is a free bit of desktop software called “Screaming Frog SEO Spider” (yes, really — just Google it). The free version can scan up to 500 URLs — plenty for most credit unions. It’ll show you missing ALT text, broken links, external links, and lots and lots of other useful info besides.
Banish Invisible Text in Images
No matter how big the headline, type on a picture is only a picture of text. And the text is invisible to the text readers used by people with vision problems. It’s also not visible to search engines trying to make sense of your site.
The right solution depends on your site and your CMS. For example, you might be able to make a nice effect by putting text over a background image, or even in a translucent box over the image. (Just make sure there’s plenty of contrast so the text is easy to read.) Of course, you may need to replace or edit your images as well.
Vet Videos and Analyze Audio
If you use video or audio on your site, including Youtube, the information must be accessible to people who can’t see or hear. The best way to do this is with closed captioning, because it follows the action and includes useful descriptions of music and sounds, like “Spooky Music” and “Screaming”. You can even embed multiple languages.
Of course, closed captioning can take a lot of time and/or money to do right, so you should at least include a transcript.
Purge Pesky PDFs
Even for people with no disabilities, PDFs are far less usable than web pages, so they should only be used when absolutely necessary. Simple text-based PDFs usually have decent accessibility, but complex layouts (where a software reader may not be able to follow the sequence of content), charts, or images in PDFs can be problematic. We recommend reviewing your use of PDFs, evaluating each PDF for usability (hint: the full version of Acrobat can help with this), and wherever possible moving the PDF content to a web page.
Insist on Accessibility
Take a close look at the third-party services used on or from your site — from online banking to branch maps. Accessibility problems that could keep people from managing their money or doing transactions could be a much larger headache, so check with your vendors to make sure they’re addressing accessibility in their products.
Build it In
Think about accessibility every time you update your site. Accessibility should become a completely normal and everyday part of your plan to evaluate, improve, and maintain all aspects of your website.
Get Professional Help
Understanding and evaluating accessibility is inevitably a technical topic that requires experience and judgement. Make sure you’re working with web developers and designers that understand your brand as well as the concepts of accessibility.
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