Communication is more than providing sign language.
I recently blogged about the ADA’s requirement to provide effective communication in the workforce, workplace and marketplace. Usually people think about this in terms of providing sign language interpreters, large print braille, audio description, etc. But what about websites?
What about the communication you convey on your website? Companies have websites for lots of reasons: to give credibility by having an internet presence; to market services & products 24-7; to increase its customer base and geographic range of its customers, post “news alerts”, post last minute online sales events, advertise job openings to attract a larger pool of potential applicants, etc. But, when those websites are not designed to be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities, a huge market of potential customers is left out. With so many advances in technology, people with and without disabilities are using speech-based browsers & touch pads (rather than using the usual mouse/click method), and many other nontraditional ways to access websites. If your site is not accessible you make it very difficult for people to use your site and they will go somewhere else.
The benefits of accessibility are much wider than you might think. Accessible web pages download faster. People using dial-up connections are likely to spend longer on your site than they would if they had to wait. Search engines like accessible pages and improve your ranking by finding your pages faster.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, the Internet was not a significant part of doing business and regulations didn’t really address this aspect of doing business. However, 21 years later, things have really changed and lots of business is transacted over the Internet. Lawsuits have been brought against online retailers, airlines, ticket sellers,
transportation companies, and the latest--Disney. Often, certain discounts are only available via online purchases. This situation doesn’t fulfill our nation’s public policy--to provide an equal opportunity for all its people.
People choose to access and use the Internet in different ways. It’s seems to me that every company would want to take simple steps to make sure that they design their website in a way that is easy to use by the most people, at all times. Next time you are conducting business over the Internet/intranet--to recruit new candidates, offer training, conduct testing, post notices, etc.--remember: the ADA requires you to make sure that you are communicating the information in a way that is usable to everyone. Many resources are available. By planning ahead and taking some simple steps, you can create a workplace and marketplace that communicates your vision of true inclusivity.
This information should not be construed as "legal advice" for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.