Corporations and other organizations redesigning or updating their Web sites are increasingly cognizant of the need to make sure that their content is accessible by people with disabilities.
Not only does accommodating such people through functions like larger type or video transcripts mean keeping more customers or members happy and informed, but it also means staying on the sunny side of the law.
A federal appeals court ruled last year that Target Corp. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not making its Web site accessible to the blind, notes Kathy Wahlbin, director of user experience services for Mindshare Interactive Campaigns.
Along with the ability to make type larger on Web sites, features for accommodating users with special needs include tools that can adjust the contrast or provide audio versions of text. Wahlbin says such features should become increasingly common given the aging of the baby boomer generation, which is accustomed to using the Internet for both work and personal reasons, and will demand to be able to continue using it.
"Even though they may not want to admit it, arthritis may make typing more difficult," she says. "It's like having a disability, even though they may not want to call it that."
AARP is one organization that makes sure its Web site is accessible to those with physical impairments. Cecelia Prewett, associate director of media relations and social impact, says AARP's site lets visitors change the text size, maintains contrast between color text and backgrounds, avoids the use of "gratuitous" animations, and tests to make sure the site complies with its accessibility guidelines.
David Almacy, VP of digital strategies for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide and the former Internet director for the White House, notes that government agencies have been leaders in making Web sites accessible to those with impairments - a requirement, thanks to federal guidelines.
But corporations certainly are following suit, he says, particularly as the availability of open-source code makes implementing such features easier.
Companies whose Web sites lack features for the physically impaired could face legal ramifications
Aging of the wealthy, tech-savvy baby boomer generation will push demand for Web site accessibility
Availability of open-source code makes implementing such features easier