Even decades after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities continue to face numerous challenges. Sometimes wrong or misleading information about accessibility can be worse than the actual inaccessibility itself. Businesses and other organizations should make conscious efforts to avoid certain glaring mistakes in their accessibility strategy.
Mistake 1: Claiming your organization is accessible, when it isn’t
Knowing what is really accessible and what is not is vital because persons with disability who seek this information will trust your answer to be accurate. For example, if your building does not have steps, it does not automatically mean the facility is accessible.
Pay attention to the pathway to the door, the parking lot, the mobility inside the building, and the rest rooms, elevators, and waiting areas. Consider whether the activities and information you are providing are accessible to people across a wide range of disabilities. To objectively evaluate and improve accessibility in your current organization, a useful place to begin might be the ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities.
Mistake 2: Providing inadequate accessibility that does more harm than good
When you provide a doorway that is accessible, but the space inside is inaccessible, someone might not know what they are getting into until they are actually inside. For example, when the entire facility is relatively accessible, but a visitor with disability is unable to use the restroom, it is going to be a problem. When there is an urgent need to use the restroom and it you realize too late that it is inaccessible, it can be difficult situation.
Similarly, consider a situation where someone uses an appropriately-built curb ramp in a wheelchair to get onto a sidewalk — only to realize later that there’s no ramp to take them to the next pathway or worse still, the ramp is crumbling or constructed wrongly. Getting trapped in these situations can not only be frustrating but also dangerous.
Mistake 3: Providing poor access to communication
When disability is not physically visible, it can be easier to ignore it. During visits, interactions, and meetings at your organization, people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may need solutions to understand audio and voice content. Persons with visual disabilities may need options, such as Braille, printing in large fonts, ADA compliant reading signs, or audio recordings at your place.
Individuals with speech disabilities may use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The staff at your organization should be trained to understand and handle such communication with patience. Take systematic steps to make the information and procedures at your organization accessible, so everyone's communication preferences and needs are respected.
Mistake 4: Building a business website with great content that is inaccessible
With a growing dependence on digital technology, nearly every organization needs a comprehensive website. While you may be thinking you have an attractive and informative website that will appeal to customers, the website may be lacking in accessibility. To make your website accessible, the primary requisite is that persons who use adaptive software programs should be able to navigate your website intuitively and read the content properly.
When you work with a web designer to create your business website, make it clear to them that you want to implement an accessible web design. While the website is still under construction, you may consider usability testing and formal accessibility testing. For help choosing an accessibility partner, download your Free Digital Accessibility Buyer's Guide.
Mistake 5: Getting defensive or procrastinating on complaints related to accessibility
The designated individual or team in your organization who receives complaints related to accessibility should be trained in accessibility as well as how to be patient and cooperative with the complainants. Your organization should be receptive to constructive feedback and not get defensive or argumentative about any mistakes. How you deal with a dissatisfied customer or visitor and how quickly you respond to their complaints will define how customer-centric your organization is.
Some of the accessibility issues that a customer has pointed out may take time to fix, but let the customer know that you are working on it, when to expect resolution, and when the issue has been fully resolved, as appropriate.