Think Your Company Web Site Is Accessible? Think Again
Speaking From Personal Experience, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Inc.'s President and CEO Garry Grant Encourages Companies to Join Worldwide Effort to Improve Website Accessibility for Consumers with Visual Impairments
CARLSBAD, CA (MarketWire) - Accessing Web sites, specifically by persons who are blind or visually impaired, has recently been a subject of rising interest - especially to Garry Grant, CEO of Search Engine Optimization Inc., a leading search engine optimization company. Grant's daughter, Amber, 18, has been blind since birth.
Visually impaired individuals, like Amber, are able to use the Internet to manage money, shop and perform a variety of other tasks by installing "screen reader" software on their computers that searches for codes embedded on Web sites. These codes enable text and graphics to be read or described audibly. The software also lets the blind navigate sites by using keystrokes instead of a mouse. However, not all Web sites are optimally designed for use by Internet consumers who have visual impairments.
In a quest to make Web sites more accessible to the visually impaired, SEO Inc.'s Grant, along with the National Federation of the Blind and other advocacy organizations, is encouraging retailers to make the necessary changes that will allow users with "screen reader software" and other technology to navigate and listen to the text throughout their Web sites.
"I just don't think the awareness and knowledge to become Section 508 compliant or to have a site that is at least navigable for adaptive technologies is quite clear," says Grant, whose SEO Inc. professional search engine marketing firm assists businesses in making their sites more visible in the major search properties, as well as making their Web sites more accessible to the visually impaired. Making a Web site more accessible, he notes, can include tagging images with word descriptions, allowing the software to "read" those images aloud. There also are many other factors often overlooked - those that actually help the adaptive technologies work correctly.
"It's a win-win situation for companies to make these changes…and by doing so, they not only broaden their visibility online, but they open themselves up to a completely new user demographic, ultimately, allowing for easier navigation and the ability to make purchases."
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires stores, restaurants and other businesses to provide access to people with mental and physical disabilities. Since the Internet emerged, several lawsuits have focused on what Web site owners should be required to do to make their pages accessible to the disabled. Perhaps one of the most prominent in recent years is the legal action initiated against Target Corp. by the National Federation of the Blind and a consumer group, which charge that the big retailer violates federal and California laws in failing to make its Web site user-friendly to visually impaired consumers. Last month, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel granted class-action status to the lawsuit, alleging that Target Corp. is in violation of California law and the ADA because screen-reading software doesn't work on parts of its Web site, essentially making it unusable for blind people.
While the case against Target may be months away from being settled, it is already beginning to raise awareness globally about the work and rewards of accommodating the needs of online shoppers with disabilities, explains Grant.
Robert Stigile, President, NFB, California, supports Grant's efforts. "The recent decision on the Target lawsuit is a major break in the case, for it tells Target that they will indeed need to change their Web site so that blind Americans will be able to shop there," says Stigile.
When this suit is over, he adds, all companies will eventually need to change their Web sites so that they are accessible to the visually impaired. "After all, blind Americans are people who want to shop online … they want to purchase items just like sighted people do, and should be able to," says Stigile.
According to Grant, business owners need to understand that taking the proper steps to make their Web sites accessible to the blind and visually impaired does not always entail a huge price tag. "It's more a matter of some thought behind it, and a little bit of hard work."
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About Search Engine Optimization Inc.:
Search Engine Optimization Inc. is an integrated search engine marketing company that specializes in achieving high rankings for their clients on the Internet's major search engines. SEO Inc. creates highly targeted optimization campaigns geared towards unique online business objectives. Leveraging more than 40 years of combined Internet marketing experience, SEO Inc.'s certified search engine specialists have developed and honed a suite of highly effective, proprietary optimization and marketing methodologies that have placed more than 700 leading corporations in the top rankings of world's leading search engines.