Fair Housing Month-Is Your Website Accessible?
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This week’s post is brought to you with the help of our friends at Innate.
About one billion people worldwide (57 million Americans) have disabilities. Making your site accessible to all people, regardless of ability, is not only good business, it’s the right thing to do.
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, developers have increasingly been working accessible designs into their physical properties, but what about the digital ones? That’s right, your website needs to be accessible too, and that involves accessible design and development of a different nature.
If you’re in the real estate or property management game, you know all about the Fair Housing Act. The mandate emphasizes that “It is unlawful to discriminate in any aspect of selling or renting housing or to deny a dwelling to a buyer or renter because of the disability of that individual.”
So why are so many websites falling short?
Changes to Make This Fair Housing Month
For Fair Housing Month, Innate’s web accessibility team walked through a handful of DC-based property management and multi-family/apartment building websites to get a lay of the land. Here are some general issues that made us gasp.
Apartment Finding Services
Despite having fairly new code overall, a few of these sites had major accessibility issues with their housing search pages. Even the basics were neglected, like using alt text and marking up tables properly.
Several of the filtering systems in the search functions were not accessible. By prioritizing visual appeal, these sites have moved away from a form-based approach to a script-based one. The form-based approach is inherently accessible, but the script-based version requires a lot of extra work. These site providers clearly didn?t design with accessibility in mind.
A lot of property management sites were built with services that sell snazzy templates or were designed with the idea of looking pretty and refined as opposed to being the most readable. Meeting the contrast requirements in WCAG 2.0 will make it much more likely that people will be able to read your text and use your site.
If one of your possible tenants is blind or visually impaired, you’d want them to be able to read and review their contracts, right? They need know what they are signing and have a way to look it up later. Unfortunately, a lot of housing applications and contracts either don’t come in electronic format or are scanned pages as opposed to accessible, interactive documents.
One site we saw relied heavily on Flash. When Flash was disabled, there was no site. If a user is visually impaired but still sees, they may need to use a higher contrast way of looking at the site. Flash prevents this. Most things that Flash does can now be accomplished very well with HTML5 with greater coverage for mobile viewers and no plugin needed. HTML5 also enables more reliable ways to start and stop video so the user has more control, which helps those with vestibular disabilities (i.e., those with issues dealing with on-screen motion).
While these are very broad examples, each of the websites we looked at had at least one major cause for concern.
Calling out these naughty companies seemed mean, so we’re going to be reaching out to their teams over the next few weeks. But chances are, unless your company has made a concerted effort to address the accessibility of your website, it’s underserving a large portion of your consumers (not to mention, breaking the law).
Is’t time to ensure that everyone can access your website?
Want to do something about this? Send us a note.
Equal Housing Opportunity Rental providers will not refuse to rent a rental unit to a person because the person will provide the rental payment, in whole or in part, through a voucher for rental housing assistance provided by the District or federal government.