The first day of summer (June 21st) is an exciting time for parents and children. In many areas, the school year has already ended, which means that students will once again find themselves with a whole lot of time on their hands. While some of that free time will be spent indoors reading books or playing video games, summer is also a time for outside fun! From beaches and libraries to parks and movie theaters, kids can explore dozens of classic hangouts this summer.
Whether children are enjoying indoor or outdoor activities, it’s important for businesses and local governments to make sure that public facilities are accessible to children with disabilities. Nearly 3 million school-aged children in the United States have some form of disability, including difficulties with vision, hearing, motion, and cognition.
Web Accessibility for Summer Activities
According to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “places of public accommodation” must not discriminate against people with disabilities. These are defined as companies and organizations that fall into certain categories and that are open to the general public.
“Places of public accommodation” include—but are certainly not limited to—hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, stores, museums, libraries, parks, zoos, gyms, and bowling alleys. Naturally, many of these locations are exactly those that children and parents will be visiting during summer vacation.
Arrangements such as wheelchair ramps and braille signage are perhaps the most obvious ways to make your business more welcoming to people with disabilities. With the spread of the Internet, however, web accessibility has become important as well.
In a number of legal cases, judges have held that Title III of the ADA applies not only to an organization’s physical location, but also to its online presence. To truly take up the mantle of accessibility, make sure that your business website is fully usable by people with disabilities. Everyone should be able to use your website to perform activities such as viewing your opening hours, making reservations, and finding upcoming events.
And of course, private organizations aren’t the only ones that need to make accessibility a priority. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities on the part of state and local governments.
Web Accessibility Guidance
In order to call themselves “accessible,” websites use common standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. WCAG 2.0 outlines requirements in the form of four criteria: perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness.
While the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are too extensive to discuss here in full, some of the most important concerns are:
- Ensuring that your website is usable with assistive technology such as screen readers.
- Providing alternatives to visual and auditory content on your website. Pre-recorded videos should come with closed captioning, while images should have alternative text (alt text) captions that are sufficiently descriptive.
- Giving your website a clear, predictable, sensible hierarchy for users to navigate.
As summer vacation begins, parents, businesses, and governments should all work to ensure that everyone, including children with disabilities, can enjoy facilities such as zoos, museums, public parks, and beaches. Web accessibility can play a vital role in helping people with disabilities find and interact with public and private facilities this summer.
For the latest news and updates regarding web accessibility, follow the Bureau of Internet Accessibility blog. If you want to learn how your own organization can improve website access for people with disabilities, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our accessibility experts.