Did you know tests aren’t just for people? Your documents and digital information need to be able to pass a test, too.
Imagine the following scenario. You are a teacher. Today is exam day and all of your students will be tested on your material. As your students take their seats, the bell rings, and their attention is yours for the next 55 minutes.
“Good morning, class. As you know, today is test day! In a moment I’ll be handing out your exams. If you have any questions, raise your hand and I’ll be right there.”
Seconds later in a class of 20 students, five hands shoot up.
What could be wrong?
Those five students cannot read your exam.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four people has a disability, and your test wasn’t written with accessibility in mind. So, you reschedule the test for those five students and figure out how to provide your material in a way they can access it. But remember, the test doesn’t need to change; the format does.
Blindness, deafness, visual impairments, reading and learning disabilities, and motor impairments are all disabilities to keep in mind when addressing accessibility. Accessibility laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, apply to all documents created for customers, staff, and the general public. Following accessibility standards means everyone can access your document, regardless of ability.
Related: Why Accessible Documents are Needed
We all understand that having accessible documents for your customers with disabilities is the right thing to do. Now, let’s look a little closer at another reason your company should provide them. The ADA requires all organizations to remove physical and communication barriers. What does this mean for you? It may mean creating wheelchair ramps, adding braille signage, and making parking lot curbs more visible, if you haven’t done so already. It definitely means providing your documents in accessible formats. This includes notices, invoices, consent forms, menus, and so much more.
Section 508 requires companies that work for federal agencies or that receive federal funding to make their information and communication technology (ICT) accessible to everyone. Essentially this means digital communications. Everyone deserves the opportunity to understand all of the content on your company’s website. This includes downloadable PDFs, which aren’t automatically accessible.
An important thing to keep in mind is that each person with a disability won’t require the same accommodations. It’s vital to have a variety of accessible formats available for your customers. For example, large print, braille, audio, and accessible PDFs are great options to offer to your clients with visual impairments.
As you look into accessibility and accommodation, think of how to get those words off the standard print page and to the reader.
When approaching accessibility, ask yourself “Have I addressed the people who have direct access, and those using assisted access or technology?” Remember, the goal is to minimize barriers for people with varying abilities and eradicate barriers altogether. Information that passes an accessibility test improves access to employment, learning, healthcare, retail, and many other essential services.
No matter what industry you serve, accessibility is crucial for equality. Accessibility should always be the forethought.
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