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Making Your Site Accessible for All People

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The growth of web users in the digital age has led to greater concerns about compliance and accessibility.

In the early days, the web was like the wild-west. Users were vulnerable, at the mercy of the websites they visited. Their data and information could be stored and saved without their consent or even their knowledge.

At that time, the web wasn't really available to all people in the same way. Most websites were (and still are) designed by and for able-bodied people. Individuals with certain disabilities are often left without the ability to use the website. At the very least, the website is not optimized for them.

Today, advocate groups and governing authorities have influenced positive changes in these areas. Companies looking to make a splash in the digital world need sites that adhere to these changes. Below, we'll give you the information and tools you need to ensure your sites meet all the necessary standards.

Legal Requirements in a Nutshell

Governments have looked for ways to protect their citizens from the vulnerabilities of the internet. They don't want websites to steal data or information. They expect sites to be transparent in what they do, making information readily available to those who are interested.

In the last few years, you might have noticed an increase in sites asking to accept their cookie policies. Or maybe you've seen an app prompt you to read its terms and conditions. These things happen because legislation has passed regarding how companies handle a visitor's "Personal Data."

The leading regulation came from the European Union passing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). According to Iubenda, a leading website compliance service we partner with, the GDPR "specifies how personal data should be lawfully processed (including how it's collected, used, protected or interacted with in general)."

While this regulation was passed in the EU, the implications expand beyond their boundaries. The Iubenda guide clarifies that the GDPR's "scope effectively covers almost all companies and, therefore, means that the GDPR can apply to you whether your organization is based in the EU or not." Failing to abide by these regulations can result in fines, audits, and possibly, litigation.

Necessary Documentation

The GDPR gives stipulations for how companies can legally process data. One of their key concerns has to do with consent. Organizations must receive verifiable consent from users before using their data. This can range from having visitors fill out forms to having the right documentation available to stay compliant.

Privacy Policy

Each company needs a unique and clear document that addresses how their websites (or apps) collect, process, store, share, and protect user data. There's an easy temptation to just copy and paste a document from another company or run a generic search, but every website has specific attributes and therefore requires unique documentation that gets updated regularly.

Cookie Policy

Technically, a cookie policy is only necessary for companies using cookies. A cookie is a small piece of data collected and stored on a user's web browser, and most companies use them for understanding user behavior and improving their digital marketing efforts. If you use Google Analytics, for instance, you use cookies and will therefore need a cookie policy.

Terms and Conditions

Companies ranging from bloggers to e-commerce sites to SaaS and enterprise businesses may find the need for a Terms and Conditions. This document outlines how your content, product, or services can be legally used. Items like copyright notices, safety information, rights of use, refund policies, and related matters may be included. These are mostly optional unless your site processes payment in any way, in which case Terms and Conditions are mandatory.

Simplifying Compliance

At Think Donson, we partner with Iubenda to ensure that every company we work with is up to date with the laws and 100% compliant. Iubenda produces terms and conditions documentation, privacy policies, and cookie policies. These generated documents adhere to the law, self-update, and can be customized to fit a company's unique circumstances.

Every site we design and work within goes through Iubenda, but organizations can also work with them directly to simplify their compliance efforts.

Accessibility Requirements

Accessibility has become another major concern for websites in the modern world. The internet has brought positive changes to the world by making everyday things simpler and more efficient.

The only problem is that these perks haven't been available to all types of people. Individuals with various disabilities have not had the same benefits afforded to them, but change is on the horizon.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have helped regulate website design and user experiences to accommodate for various disabilities.

What is ADA Compliance?

The ADA was a revolutionary act that passed in 1990, prompting any public business to make its offerings accessible to people with disabilities. This included the addition of wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms, and similar changes that allowed everyone to access the service of the business.

Of course, in 1990, the internet was not the megaforce it is today. It still existed in an infant state. Because of this, the ADA does not include any direct legislation regarding websites. It underwent an amendment process in 2008, but no clear laws came from it.

Nonetheless, the language of the Act lends itself to interpretation. The courts can decide whether or not websites are adhering to the legal requirements. Title III of the act states that all owners, lessors, or operators of a "place of public accommodation" must make their business equally accessible to all people. Many judges over the years have seen how this includes websites, so while the legal requirements are a bit of a grey area in the ADA, websites that make their sites accessible have a better chance of avoiding any potential trouble.

What is WCAG Compliance?

The WCAG is a set of guidelines that function as the standard for website accessibility. They come from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) organized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The organization published the original WCAG guidelines in 1999 and has updated them periodically since then. The latest edition is WCAG 2.1, published in 2018, but WCAG 2.2 is expected to be published soon.

WCAG 2.2 will build off the guidelines going back to WCAG 2.0. The success criteria focuses on four main principles, making sites more:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust.

Each principle includes a list of distinct guidelines to ensure people with various disabilities can access your site. The criteria include color, text alternatives, audio levels, and other such adjustments. The W3C has a detailed list of these guidelines available on its website.

How to Make Your Site Accessible

The list of criteria for accessible sites can feel overwhelming. Designing a website comes with its own challenges, and seeing these additional guidelines can make it seem next to impossible. Tools like AccessiBe make it easy for you to become compliant.

AccessiBe works as a simple plug-in for websites. Visitors can click on the small icon and make adjustments according to their needs. Check out the gif below to see AccessiBe in action on our own website.

 We partner with AccessiBe to make all of our client's sites accessible. The simple tool demands very little from the business and can make it so all people can access your site.

Moving From Compliance to Compassion

The legal requirements surrounding privacy and accessibility are a fine motivator to get your site compliant. However, the advantages of adhering to these laws go beyond saving your company from potential lawsuits.

By adding tools like Iubenda and AccessiBe, you help your visitors retain their basic rights. They know how you will use their data and have the option to give consent. Likewise, internet users who previously couldn't access your site can now enjoy browsing your options in a way that meets their needs. Following the laws and making your site accessible has more to do with compassion than compliance. That's why we ensure that every brand we partner with has the opportunity to contribute to a safer and more accessible digital world.

If you'd like to hear more about how Think Donson can help your company optimize its digital efforts, reach out to us today.

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