Make your property websites ADA compliant and fully accessible to all visually impaired Americans. The accessibility of the website shows everyone that they matter and that their life experiences are represented.
Finding a home in today’s market is hard enough for those looking for a first home or rental, but imagine having the added hurdles of not being able to search online or not having access to search options tailored to your needs. disabilities. Bronwen Tedesco shares her story about her first apartment search out of college and offers insight into how far our industry still has to go to accommodate people with disabilities trying to navigate the housing market.
Looking for a house you can’t see
All blind and disabled people face a common challenge that most sighted people don’t understand: website inaccessibility. As a recent college graduate and totally blind, I attempted to do my own independent search for a new apartment to rent.
I feel like my experiences and those of others in the same position are overlooked, even ignored, because of common misconceptions about people who are blind. If blind people were held to the same expectations as their counterparts, there would be no talk of making the housing market fully accessible in 2022, because that would have happened a long time ago when readers of screen began to be used.
By not making sincere efforts to ensure that home-finding is feasible for blind people, the industry is exacerbating the stereotype that all blind people have caregivers, which in many cases does not is not true.
Tech companies have to assume that someone is just going to help us, rather than making the internet accessible enough to do it ourselves.
How the ADA Protects Consumers with Disabilities
The goal of the ADA is, by law, to ensure that all persons with disabilities participate in all aspects of society. In the 21st century, much of what we do in life is digital.
When websites are not accessible, people with disabilities are not able to participate fully in society because anything they are prevented from doing at that time limits their participation. Today, the Internet is part of society, and under the ADA, people with disabilities have the right to participate fully in their communities.
Approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide have visual impairment. The term vision loss, visual impairment, or visual impairment refers to people who have reported being blind or unable to see at all or having difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses. In America alone, there are at least 12 million people affected by visual impairments; 93% of Americans use the Internet.
When websites are not accessible, a significant portion of the population is left behind, unable to perform simple tasks like filling out online forms, applying for jobs and internships, shopping online, etc.
Home hunting isn’t something that can be done completely independently, at least not yet, but there have been steps in the right direction.
When will technology catch up with the needs of visually impaired consumers?
Some websites have descriptions of the images displayed on their listings, but many do not. There are vague descriptions of kitchens and bedrooms, if you’re lucky. Otherwise, images tagged accessible with alt text are mostly corporate banners and logos that read as “graphic” or “no description available”.
hot tip: What is “alt text”? : Alt text can be read by screen readers and helps people who are blind or visually impaired understand images and other objects in a document. You can add alt text to objects, such as pictures, clip art, charts, tables, shapes, SmartArts, inline objects, and audio or video objects.
Many text descriptions aren’t helpful and don’t provide any property information, as if to say, “Well, at least we’ve got alt text and we’re avoiding those lawsuits.” Some companies really try, while others just have random bits of useless alt text all over the place, not necessarily related to properties, in no way serving the purpose of alt text.
When done correctly, “text to talk” screen readers read aloud what is on the screen, allowing users to perform functions with keystrokes such as reading specific sets of text on computer screens, cell phones, iPads and tablets. When an application or website is not accessible with a screen reader, it means that it is not compatible, regardless of how it works on the device and is aimed at sighted people.
If a user cannot perform functions using a screen reader, the screen reader is not accessible.
Resources to improve your websites
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is an online resource for consumers, businesses, and web developers to learn about and implement accessibility improvements on their websites. There are several tools that can help you take action to create a more compliant and digitally fair site for your customers.
The American Foundation for the Blind offers several resources for developers and takes the concept of “digital” inclusion further by offering labs and guidance to companies working hard to improve the accessibility of their websites for all consumers.
I hope you will encourage your business to make sincere efforts this year to make your real estate websites ADA compliant and fully accessible to me and all Americans who are visually impaired. Website accessibility is extremely important, not only to avoid lawsuits, but to show everyone that they matter and that their life experiences are represented.
Lisa Larson is General Manager, North America at Restb.ai. Connect with her on LinkedIn.