The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets standards for accessibility for people with disabilities to all commercial and public entities that have “places of public accommodation”. In 2010, the Department of Justice clarified that the definition of places of public accommodation includes the internet, and hence, websites of commercial and public entities.
What does it mean to have an accessible website?
Many visually impaired people rely on screen readers to keep up with email, searches, browse websites, and lead a normal life in a time when computer screens are the primary form of information flow. The screen readers literally read text from the website out loudly. However, they cannot read text in a graphic image. Text in hidden tags ‘trip up’ the screen readers, as do links that open in new windows.
Many blind people have their keypad memorized, but cannot use a mouse, as they cannot visually locate the cursor on the screen. Therefore, they tab from field to field. What sighted readers find second nature, such as filling in fields, can be frustrating for a blind person relying on a screen reader when there are no tags associated with the fields. (It is not uncommon for a blind user to hear “edit, edit, edit, radio button not checked, submit button” as they tab across the fields to be filled in)
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