In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly known as ADA, ushered in sweeping changes for American businesses. In its original form, the Act required brick and mortar businesses to provide a range of accommodations for those with disabilities. Modifications and additions since its original passage also require digital properties like commerce websites to adopt accommodations for visitors with physical disabilities. In the age of data science in insurance, ADA-compliant websites are more important than ever. In this guide, we will explore the steps needed in making an insurance website ADA compliant.
What is an ADA Compliant Website?
Despite its complex and comprehensive nature, the Americans with Disabilities Act is often not clear when it comes to what exactly an ADA-compliant site is. In 2010, the United States Department of Justice passed a supplemental set of standards called the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design to help clear up the confusion.
In simple terms, there is a specific section of the Act for insurance business owners to be aware of. Called Title III, businesses that fall into the category of “public accommodation”, which may include consumer-facing websites, states that under current ADA guidelines, an ADA compliant website will have:
- Clean and easy to navigate website layouts
- Alt tags for images, video, and audio files to allow those with disabilities to read or hear alternative descriptions of these content pieces.
- Readable content with contrasting text and background colors
- Input assistance, particularly with providing navigation assistance when disabled users encounter input errors
- Text transcripts for downloadable or streaming audio and video content
- Implementation of standards for assistive technologies, including screen readers
Why Should My Website be ADA Compliant?
According to the ADA website, over 57 million people in the United States experience some form of disability, including visual and hearing impairments. Although the Act can be somewhat vague when it comes to specific requirements for online properties in terms of accommodations, these accommodations represent certain advantages. In fact, there are two primary reasons why ADA compliance for insurance websites is so crucial; first, as a risk management practice, implementing compliance features helps to protect insurance businesses from lawsuits filed by disabled website visitors. This also avoids the potential for steep regulatory penalties. Both of these aspects can reduce the number of claims against liability insurance policies.
Second, ADA compliant websites gain businesses access to previously untapped markets. By analyzing data science in insurance, industry professionals have identified over eight million Americans struggling with visual impairments alone, including two million who are blind. Providing access to insurance companies’ websites to the visually impaired can unlock new opportunities and markets for business owners. In other words, new opportunities and markets can mean significant business growth.
Creating an ADA Compliant Insurance Website
Now that we have an understanding of the features of an ADA-compliant website, and have learned about the advantages of having an accessible site, it is time to dig deeper. Modifying an existing website, or starting from scratch, can be a daunting process. The first step, then, is to review established guidelines, particularly those published by the Web Accessibility Initiative. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), versions 2.0 through 2.2, are comprehensive. Also, web search giant Google provides a valuable toolset called the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool that can pinpoint specific issues.
Once guidelines are studied and potential issues are revealed, the implementation of accessible features can begin. Using data science in insurance, several key accessibility components are identified. These include:
- Inserting or creating alt tags for all images on a given site. Alt tags are used by screen readers for the visually impaired, allowing them to describe visual elements that may not be accessible otherwise.
- Overhauling site styles and visual elements, including embedded links, buttons, and headings or subheadings. Styles that previously incorporated small or stylized fonts may wish to adapt to easier-to-read formats.
- Streamlining site navigation. A site that is easy and intuitive to navigate offers benefits for all visitors, not only those with disabilities. Redundant navigational elements such as links on page footers can help improve the user experience, particularly for disabled visitors.
- Content development practices that emphasize readability. Breaking up large text blocks with headers and subheaders improves readability. Another trick to use when adding abbreviations and acronyms is to separate letters with periods; as an example, A.D.A. This can allow screen readers and assistive devices to pronounce these elements properly.
- Video and audio content has become a powerful tool in insurance digital marketing. Unfortunately, these elements can be hard to access for those with certain disabilities. It is recommended the web teams create text-based transcripts of video and audio content to allow all users to access the information.
- Behind the scenes, the site’s underlying code, such as cascading style sheets (CSS), may have its own accessibility issues. Developers should carefully review and modify the code to ensure compliance with established standards.
Does all of this accessibility modification still seem too daunting? Insurance firms may wish to seek professional help. Neilson Marketing Services boasts some of the leading website development personnel who are familiar with the guidelines and regulations governing access for people with disabilities. Neilson Marketing has leveraged data science in insurance to develop an automated website accessibility solution packed with powerful features. Websites developed with our system automatically comply with all regulations and standards at both the national and international levels.
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