This week marks three decades since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark law has transformed the nation, making features such as building ramps and accessible parking spots normal parts of the country's physical landscape.
But are you aware that this legislation applies to the digital realm, too?
Not enough business owners know that the ADA sets forth certain digital standards, and other organizations such as the Web Accessibility Initiative supplement these regulations with further measures designed to open the world to the more than 57 million Americans with a disability. Until now, that included Hello Alice.
We're not afraid to say that it's time to live up to our commitment to this oft-forgotten segment of the New Majority.
Yes, there are costs and resources associated with changes to come, but each business ignores this issue at its own peril. In 2019, the United States Supreme Court handed disability advocates a huge victory when a blind man successfully sued Domino's Pizza after he was unable to order from their website. It only takes one person being unable to use a function of your site to provoke a lawsuit.
Wanting to make our sites accessible, not just comply with legislation, is more than just doing the right thing. This is about each of us taking a step to move the needle forward on breaking barriers to content for 20% of our population and providing equal access to all. It means creating a rightful path for the disability community to have the same online experience we all enjoy and to learn more about the Hello Alice community.
To start, Hello Alice recently teamed up with The Viscardi Center, a world renowned organization that educates, empowers, and employs people with disabilities, as well as its National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship (NCDE), which empowers innovative self-starters with disabilities to self-employment success.
Under their guidance, we've integrated the accessiBe widget to make our COVID-19 Business Resource Center clear and functional for all visitors. By clicking on the International Symbol of Access, or Wheelchair Symbol, visitors can adjust the content, color, and orientation of our website. This readymade solution can:
- Eliminate flashes and reduce color (for those with epilepsy)
- Create focus and reduce distractions (for those with ADHD)
- Provide assistance with reading and focusing (for those with cognitive disabilities)
- Enhance site visuals (for the visually impaired)
- Translate the site for a screen reader (for the blind)
- Enable keyboard navigation (for those with limited motor function)
Hello Alice will also caption all video content and plan to evaluate options for CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services to accompany our digital events.
There are more long-term, infrastructural changes that we and other small businesses must undertake, too. This means adapting our core content — including PDFs, videos, contact forms, and more — to make it accessible, and designing website navigation paths so that our pages are clear and functional for those using screen readers and other assistive technology to browse. Per Viscardi's recommendation, Hello Alice is addressing these as part of our existing product roadmap.
We will also foreground opportunities for the disability community, which has a significantly higher rate of self-employment. If you're a member of the disability community unsure how to start your entrepreneurship journey, we recommend reaching out to Viscardi's NCDE, which offers expert trainers, talented mentors, program modules, benefits assistance, and more.
Together, we can create a more accessible small business community — one that fully lives up to the promise of the ADA's original intent.