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Are you unwittingly excluding people from accessing your website?

As a business owner, you want your website and other social media presence to be accessible to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, some businesses unknowingly exclude people with various types of disabilities (particularly those involving vision and hearing) from being able to fully use their websites and other sites where they have an online presence. Not only do you limit your audience and prospective customers and employees. You run the risk of facing a lawsuit for lack of accessibility.

Let's look at a few relatively simple things you can do to make your online presence more accessible:

  • Screen readers. These provide image descriptions for those who are visually impaired.
  • Open and closed-captioning on videos. This helps people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf get the full value of them.
  • Minimal emojis. They may add color and flair to your social media posts. However, someone who is using a screen reader hears the description of the emoji. A half-dozen emojis side by side can be a distracting thing to get through when you're using a screen reader.
  • Use camel case for hashtags. This involves capitalizing the first letter of each word in a hashtag -- for example, #ThisIsCamelCase. That helps screen readers better read the hashtag. A hashtag like #THISISNOTCAMELCASE is difficult for screen readers to read.
  • Trigger warnings. If your site or your social media posts include images that might be disturbing to some people because they're violent or graphic, it's best to warn people. This can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) avoid being unnecessarily retraumatized. Some videos, such as those with flashing lights, can cause people with epilepsy and others with photosensitivity to have seizures. It's best to warn the viewer/reader about these as well.

People who don't have any of the disabilities discussed here or know anyone who does may have no idea that they may have trouble accessing their site. If you're facing a discrimination suit because of lack of accessibility in your online content or if you want to be proactive about being more accessible, it's wise to consult an attorney experienced in representing businesses in discrimination suits.

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