The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination and guarantees that all individuals can fully participate in American life. One of the ADA’s key elements defines “places of public accommodation” as any location where the public participates in society. These locations have a responsibility to provide “reasonable accommodations” for disabled individuals.
“Reasonable accommodations” look different from space to space. For example, public entities must integrate wheelchair ramps on building entrances, include Braille on ATMs and provide wider aisles in retail locations. But what do reasonable accommodations look like online?
Today we search for jobs online, get from place to place using GPS navigation, shop online and pay bills virtually. A lack of web accessibility can make using the internet challenging for those with disabilities. Yet, the web is a public space that should be available for all to use, regardless of ability, context or situation.
Digital accessibility takes into account all of the ways people may experience difficulty interacting online. Poor color contrast, illegible fonts and photos without captions affect those with disabilities’ capacity to engage in online activities. Websites must also be equipped to support assistive technologies including keyboard input, screen readers, specialized software and specialized web browsers.
The web is a space designed for unique functionality that meets the needs of individuals of all circumstances. Assistive technologies can also provide people with disabilities unprecedented access to written, visual and audio content. Buffalo’s small businesses should take advantage of the web’s incredible capacity to engage with people of all abilities.