Accommodation of disabilities and impairments within multifamily may be seen as tactile efforts — braille on signs, automatic doors, ramps, and designated parking.
But what about digital accommodation?
We’d like to start an evolving conversation with you, fellow apartment marketers, around the importance of website accessibility. In recent years, website accessibility has become a growing topic of concern.
With the rise of online leasing and virtual tours, there should also be honest conversations about the inaccessibility these technological features can present for users with disabilities.
Additionally, it should be a priority to implement standards of website accessibility for all users to have the same online experience on your site. As well as keeping your community website in compliance with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).
It’s also worth noting the importance of apartment communities finding partners that specialize in multifamily. If you’re looking to outsource for content or website design, it’s best to work with partners that work exclusively in multifamily. Those who work within multifamily are well-versed in fair housing compliance laws, which can eliminate any risk of liability on your part.
What Is Website Accessibility?
Website accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring best-practices are put in place within the design and development of a website for all users to navigate and interact with the website.
The most widely accepted standards of website accessibility are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These guidelines provide standards for websites to accommodate users with disabilities or visual impairments which improves the overall user experience.
Website inaccessibility can prevent people with disabilities from having an equal opportunity to find housing. This is not in compliance with laws such as FHA and ADA which both protect Americans with disabilities from discrimination.
The accessibility standards provide the necessary steps to not only ensuring equal website access to users, but it also protects your community website from legal issues.
What Can I Do About It?
Website accessibility is not a one-time fix, but a process of refining and improving upon your website design to make it easily accessible for your users.
Apartment communities should go to great lengths in prioritizing the development of accessible websites. And also should be aware that inaccessible websites are an emerging fair housing issue.
7.6 million Americans over the age of 16 have a visual impairment. If community website designs don’t cater to their specific needs, then major issues can arise. When a potential renter can’t understand the content on your website, they are more inclined to move on to the next community on their list.
Ensuring your website meets accessibility guidelines helps your apartment community stand out from your competitors who have not invested in website accessibility.
But what can your apartment community do to ensure that your website is accessible?
Great question! Here are some practical ways to make your apartment website accessible to all users.
Website Accessibility Best-Practices
First, audit your website. Use the approved WCGA 2.0 guidelines as a standard for you to adjust and improve your website’s accessibility. Then, take into consideration our best-practices!
All images on your apartment website should include alternative text (alt-text). Alt-text is a description of the image and has been known to enhance usability and search engine optimization (SEO) performance.
However, users with visual impairments often use screen readers to help navigate a website’s menu, images, content, and icons. The use of alt-text to give a description of images help these individuals better understand the images on your site.
Though marketers are aware of alt-text, partners who are not experienced in multifamily may not understand the importance of providing detailed descriptions. For example, how to accurately describe an image of your community’s stainless-steel appliances or outdoor grill & patio.
Users with impairments may not be able to access your visual-only content, such as graphics and videos. Provide audio transcripts and/or in-sync captioning of your videos. In addition, adding written text to your graphics as an alternative allows users who use screen readers to also engage and enjoy your website content.
Keep in mind the contrast between the written text and the colors of your background and images. Let your text be easy to read and distinguish. Your brand colors may be bright and vibrant but are they distracting to the information about your apartment community?
Your website functionality, meaning how it works, should be accessible through a mouse and keyboard and synced to work with voice-control systems.
Also, a “skip navigation” feature can be made available for access to users with certain disabilities. This feature places a named anchor on the page where the main content begins, allowing them to skip to the main content of the site.
The functionality of your website enables impaired users to successfully navigate from page to page and ultimately make the decision to choose your community as their next home.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Missing or insufficient alt image text for vision-impaired users
- Keyboard inaccessibility
- Low color contrast
- Mislabeled page headers
- Contact forms that are mislabeled or not labeled at all
- Redundant or broken links
- Flashing content
- Missing “skip links”
At the end of the day, the most important thing is your customers. Investing in website accessibility for all users shows your current and future residents that you care — that it’s about them!
Take the time to audit your apartment website for potential optimization improvements. Using the accessibility guidelines and standards will widen your apartment website audience and create positive user experiences.
For more information or questions about website accessibility, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our team is always here to meet your apartment marketing needs. 🙂
Taylor Boyd is a digital marketing specialist with REPLI.
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