[Tools & Resources]
by: Lauren Roth
Lauren is a Marketing Intern at CIL. She is a rising junior at Bryant University studying Marketing and Political Science.
July 14 is Disability Awareness Day (DAD), an internationally recognized effort to raise awareness about different kinds of disabilities and how they affect people, as well as celebrate what people with disabilities can do and the people and services that assist them. While this year’s DAD cannot be marked by large parades or gatherings, it is still a special one as this July also marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
At CIL, we believe that everyone should have the choice to live where they want to live. In the same vein, we believe that anyone who wants to engage with CIL content and resources online should be able to do that too. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide have a vision impairment. Depending on the severity, this can make viewing a website difficult or nearly impossible. The ADA does not specifically cover requirements for websites, but there have been numerous lawsuits in recent years siting discrimination due to inaccessible websites.
My training on how to update CIL’s website and social media included specific guidance on how to add alt text, or descriptions of images that can be read aloud to users who have difficulty viewing them, to any images I added. To be completely honest, I had never heard of alt text before. As I learned about alt text and other accessibility attributes to websites, I gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties those with vision impairments face online.
I learned that people with vision impairments use screen readers, software that reads websites out loud. People using screen readers will often not navigate websites using the mouse, but will use keyboard shortcuts, such as “tab” and “enter”, so I tried navigating the CIL website this way. While we have worked to make sure our website is set up well for this, I still struggled. It took much longer than I was used to and was confusing. Things that seem so simple to a sighted person, like links to other content or a button to access another part of the site, can be extremely difficult for users with screen readers if not properly set up.
To help improve accessibility of CIL’s website and social media, we put in place several new policies. All images on social media have descriptive alternative text, whether behind the image and hidden from sighted users or directly in the caption on platforms that made it more difficult. We are continuing to work on an audit of the website, and are adding alt text, improving color contrast errors, and making navigation easier.
Going into my internship, I expected to learn a lot about marketing, business, and even myself. I did not expect to learn of the struggles people with vision impairments face when trying to use a website, but I am so glad I did. I will keep in mind everything I have learned about website accessibility going forward and encourage other companies to make their sites accessible whenever I have the chance.
To learn more about web accessibility and to make your company’s social media more accessible, check out the following resources!