TechTonic TV – Website Accessibility with Ethan Hunter and Jacob Griscom
With advances in technology there is a necessity to adapt to the needs of all who use said technology; for example, a person who experiences a disability or impairment of any type is automatically at a disadvantage unless the proprietary company acclimates its website to accommodate any potential needs.
Enter R&B Communications, a team including Ethan Hunter and Jacob Griscom, among an esteemed group of others who share the initiative to move forward the company’s mission statement: to use technology to continuously serve their customers’ growth and goals, and to be a standard-bearer for business productivity.
“We audit and advise the client as to where they are and what they can do to improve,” said Hunter. “Each client is unique in their goals and what they want.”
Hunter and Griscom and their team have dedicated themselves to helping organizations create websites that are user friendly in all ways. Hunter pointed out that although technological advancements have been implemented exponentially over the years the future lies in making sure all web content is accessible to those with impairments.
The implementation of ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) practices stands to serve everyone. Hunter explained: “[We seek to aid] the visually impaired including those who are blind or color blind, people who have neurological or motor skill impairments. It also includes people who have difficulty using their arms. Other people have cognitive issues such as speech and language impediments.”
These needs, he said, must be met in order to offer an inclusive and beneficial environment for all.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Hunter said. “[A website] will appeal to a larger audience, creating more traffic.”
He mentioned specifically the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which state that in the effort of inclusivity, it operates “in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”
Think of it much like you would any other ADA regulation, which strives to make life easier for those with impairments. While it is common to see rampways, automatically powered doors, etc. regulations on websites might strike some as a new concept; you might not have ever thought to consider that someone who is visually impaired might have a difficult time reading or responding to a website’s content.
Hunter acknowledges the relatively new notion of such practices.
“[ADA] has always been something that’s there but things had to be defined; we are talking specifically about websites. We are still figuring it out. The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t released an official ADA compliance guide [for the web], but there is a law you have to meet certain requirements. It’s a gray area.”
Learning curve aside, it’s becoming more apparent that the more inclusive a website is, the more traffic it will drive. It’s something that could benefit all involved.
“It improves your SEO [search engine optimization] just by having a better site like that and also you’ll get a loss in revenue if you don’t comply.”
The inclusion of alt-text—text that strives to convey the “why” of an image as it relates to the content of a webpage and/or document—has become more common as content developers are adapting to the needs of many.
“We are working with schools and it’s something they want to achieve and it’s a process,” explained Hunter. “Any time you make content you need to be auditing in that way. It’s almost in this feel-good kind of space; people have good intentions and are trying to figure out what to do.
“Now you find old sites that you can’t see on your phone; [consequently] we had to start thinking about mobile responsive design. It’s the same thing; we have to do this to be ‘up there’. It’s a new thing that more and more people are aware of the benefits to the disabled.”
The future of user-friendly technology is changing by the moment but Hunter is passionate about his work and encourages those who operate websites and apps to think ahead and, more importantly, adapt.
“We are in this interesting space,” he said. “There is a need and an opportunity around making sure people have access to digital content. We are still figuring it out, but there are mandates within the guidelines: anyone with a state or local government agency, or private employers with 15 or more employees and businesses that operate for the benefit of the public must comply. That’s why we’re talking about it now.”