It can be easy to take website accessibility for granted. But according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, over 19 million U.S. citizens live with a disability that impacts their ability to browse the web and interact successfully with websites. Rather than risk receiving a demand letter from a lawyer or disgruntled member and be forced to respond quickly (and expensively) with a redesigned website, credit unions should ensure their websites are accessible by conducting an ADA compliance audit.
“Every website should be audited for accessibility prior to launch to ensure it was designed and coded properly,” says says Sean Bradley, president and chief technology officer at AudioEye, a technology firm specializing in online accessibility.
“When not coded properly, websites can be difficult or even impossible to fully access by people that rely on assistive technologies or specific need-driven techniques to navigate the digital world. In the same sense that a building must provide certain physical accommodations — ramps, rails, wide doorways, curb cuts and elevators — websites must provide specific accommodations to enable full access. Websites should be designed and developed to accommodate users with diverse abilities in a manner that focuses on user-first, universal design principles.”
When creating a new website, credit unions need to make sure ADA compliance is a default standard with their web developer. One mistake many companies make when they realize they need a compliance audit after launching their website is to return to their web developer for the audit. Unless the vendor also specializes in auditing for accessibility, many developers simply are not outfitted to do so.
Credit unions should look for web design and development companies that focus on ADA compliance and have a set, automated process. Auditing a website manually takes time, not to mention the process is prone to human error. Automated processes, however, can quickly identify potential issues and provide ongoing monitoring to ensure a website stays accessible no matter what functions are added.
A website audit for ADA accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean changing the overall look of a site. In fact, many required ADA functionality changes might not be noticed by typical website users. However, staying up on ADA requirements helps protect a credit union from legal action and encourages website traffic from a wider audience.