Should your massage practice website be accessible to people with disabilities? Spoiler alert: yes.
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Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines.
Michael Reynolds And I am Michael Reynolds.
AH And we are delighted to be coming to do you today, and I am especially delighted because Michael is in charge of the topic and doing all of the — excuse me. I’m in charge of clearing my throat on mic like Michael usually does. Michael’s doing all the heavy lifting today and I’m just doing all the background noise.
MR So red alert, that means it’s going to be a very nerdy, dry episode today. Actually not too dry, I take that back. Only part of it will be dry.
AH It’s going to be exciting, and it means we have no time for banter. So Michael, tell me what you’re doing today.
MR No time for banter today. Let’s do it. So today we’re talking about ADA compliance for your massage practice website. What is ADA compliance you ask? I’m glad you asked. We are here to help with that. So as Allissa has mentioned numerous times, in even our last episode, having a great massage practice website is kind of a must for a lot of people. And she also mentioned in our last episode, not necessarily for everybody, but we usually recommend a great massage practice website to help your online marketing if you are doing online marketing. So that being said, we’ve had a lot of different episodes about different aspects of your website, search engine optimization, usability, design, et cetera. This topic today is near and dear to my heart because one, I have a lot experience in it and have really dug deep into it and other lives I lead in marketing and tech and industries I serve as well. And also, it’s a very human kind of topic. It’s not just technical or marketing or how to get more business or how to make your website look pretty. It’s a very important human element to your website as well. We’re going to talk about that today.
So ADA compliance. What is ADA compliance? ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This was passed by Congress in 1990, and it was an effort to set a standard for businesses and public organizations to create an environment in which individuals with disabilities could enjoy the same or similar or best case success in using their services as able people. So the idea is, in kind of a non-web sense and kind of the physical-world sense, things like ramps for wheelchairs, various accommodations for people with disabilities; so enabling people with disabilities to use services, to use businesses, to have support to enable them to have an equal or as close to equal as possible opportunity to use these services. So that’s what it’s all about. It’s gone through some iterations since 1990, but not much. It’s been a couple different iterations and variances and evolutions, but — and it’s still actually evolving, but many regulations and things in government, it’s slow evolution.
But one of the most recent evolutions relates to technology and the web. And so, specifically, today, I want to talk about your massage practice website and how to make sure that your massage practice website is as close to ADA compliant as possible. Now, the first half before halftime, we’re going to talk about some of the general issues around ADA compliance. The second half of the episode, we’re going to talk about how to make sure your website is compliant or as compliant as possible and what that even means.
So first of all, ADA compliance on the web. There are a lot of different little factors that go into ADA compliance on the web that we’ll talk about in the second half. But let’s talk about why. So there’s two main reasons about why you would want to be ADA compliant on the web. One is the scarier but less important reason. The second one is the more important but less scary reason. So the first reason, which is scarier but less important, is legal. There are a lot of high profile websites now getting sued and getting class action lawsuits against them for ADA compliance and for not being ADA compliant specifically. One of the biggest examples that people use in recent years is Winn-Dixie, I believe. Winn-Dixie or one of the big grocery — I think it was Winn-Dixie. They lost a class action lawsuit because they were not ADA compliant for a particular user, who actually brought it up, who could not see, who had blindness. And he was not able to find the pharmacy hours on the website. There was no mechanism to easily find the pharmacy hours, it didn’t work with a screen reader, there was some way that he wasn’t able to find the information he needed. So Winn-Dixie got slapped with a lawsuit for that. In even more recent time frame, I think in the past few months here, Beyoncé, or rather her company, has a class action lawsuit for ADA compliance. This one also relates to visual impairment. In a lot of entertainment websites like Beyoncé or entertainers or in the entertainment industry, it’s a very visual medium. You know, you go to Beyoncé’s website, for example, and it’s very visual, lots of imagery, it’s a very unique kind of design. It’s not like a business site. And whoever built this website did not make accommodations for visual impairments. There was no alt text on the images — we’ll talk about what that means — but there was basically no textual or text-based alternative to images so screen readers could see them, and; therefore, users with visual impairment were not able to have to the same experience or were not able to navigate and get around on the website.
So there’s a lot of high-profile sites being targeted now. Banks and hospitals and healthcare organizations are also a big target because they are critical services for people, and it’s very impactful in a negative way when those organizations are not ADA compliant. Getting your money is very important. Getting access to healthcare is very important. These are very critical life services. And so they’re becoming targets for law firms that are kind of going out there and, to be frank, looking for class action lawsuits to place against these organizations.
So the legal part of it is scary for organizations because they can get sued for this. Now, as a small business, are you likely to get sued for not being ADA compliant on the web? Not as likely as a bank, not as likely as Beyoncé, not as likely as Winn-Dixie, but why take chances. So I say this part of it is less important because yeah, it’s not good to get sued, but let’s talk about the human factor. The more important reason to be ADA compliant and the whole point of it in the first place is because it’s the right thing to do. So I would hope that as a massage therapist — I have faith and I am optimistic that everyone listening here would like their massage practice to be accessible to everyone or as many people as possible within reason.
And for that reason, ADA compliance is simply the right thing to do because if your website is accessible to users with visual impairments, they are able to go get information, get your hours, your locations, potentially book online or find the phone number to call you if you can’t book online; that enables them to do business with you and to get massage and to have the service that they need just like everybody else. If people with audio impairments that cannot hear — deaf or have audio impairments — if they can’t listen to the video that you have on your website that explains how to — what to expect at your first massage, that’s going to be a barrier for them. If people with cognitive disabilities have trouble reading content in your website, they aren’t able to get around on your website; people with dexterity issues, if they can’t navigate your website — these are all impairments to people that would otherwise be able to use your service. So from the human side of it — take the legality out of it — from the human side of it, that’s — it’s simply the right thing to do. And the whole point of ADA compliance and the reason the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed is because as a society we are saying that we want to make services accessible to people with disabilities. So that’s kind of the background of it and the why behind it and why you might want to, or probably definitely want to, take a look at this and think about it and integrate it into your business and decide how accessible you want to be to the public.
So with that, I’ll pause there because the second half is kind of the hows and the nitty gritty of what you want to look for in your website, but before that, let’s jump to our halftime sponsor. And Allissa, who is our halftime sponsor today?
AH Our halftime sponsor is Acuity.
MR Acuity!. We love Acuity.
AH We do love Acuity. And this is — I just got all befuddled thinking about how much I love Acuity. Sorry, guys.
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AH I flubbed it a couple times but just because I was so excited. Sorry, guys.
MR I know, it comes from a place of love, so we’ll take it.
AH It really does.
AH All right, give us more. Tell me what I can do to make my site ADA compliant and such.
MR Sure, before I do that, any questions come up for you, Allissa, as we kind of talked through the first half?
AH No. That was pretty clear, and your example of Beyoncé was very helpful.
MR [laughs] Everyone knows Beyoncé, so it was a good example. All right, so ADA compliance — oh, by the way, a little side note as well. A side benefit of ADA compliance is everything in this list of things we’re going to talk about also relates to search engine optimization, which means getting you found in Google. So there’s this other side effect as well, so keep that in mind too.
So anyway, ADA compliance, how to do it. So there are 12 different, kind of, points in the website-specific section of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And these 12 sections — or these 12 little points — have a lot of nuance and detail behind them. So you could spend a lot of time really digging into this and getting down a rabbit hole, and we’re not going to do that. What I’m going to do is I’m going to give you the most important things that you can look at that pretty much everybody can kind of figure out and address either on your own or with your website developer. So we’re not going to dig into everything but we’re going to kind of talk about the basics here.
The 12 things are — the 12 points that you want to take a look at are text alternatives, time-based media, displaying content, seeing and hearing content, keyboard functionality, read time, seizures or seizure activation, usability and readability, expectations, helping users, and compatibility. So don’t remember all that because it doesn’t really matter. I shouldn’t have read the list anyway because it’s too long.
So here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to go through all the different little sections here. The thing that most people need to worry about, the number one issue that people have on their websites when it comes to ADA compliance is text alternatives for images. So when you’re looking at a website, it is made up of text and images, typically. The text can be read by a screen reader. If people have visual impairments, they often use screen readers, which means that where you and I — if you’re a sighted person like I am, you can look at a web page and you can read it. If you have visual impairments, you would instead have a screen reader that goes through and reads aloud the text on the page so that you know what it says. Now, when it comes to an image, if the image does not have a text alternative embedded within the image, then the screen reader doesn’t know what the image is, and the person with visual impairment is going to be missing context; they are going to be missing the whole opportunity to know what that image is. So there’s that. You want to make sure that your images, again, have text alternatives, meaning there’s a little code in there. And your web developer can do this or most website platforms will let you figure out how to put the text in there. So make sure that every single image on your side has a text label on it that describes what it is. So if it’s a picture of a tree, the text would say “picture of a tree.” So make it very descriptive.
Next, alternatives for time-based media. Time-based media are things like a video. So if you have video on your website, you want to have closed captioning. That’s one of the easiest things you can do. A lot of people have — I think Allissa has really encouraged a lot of people to create a massage video saying hey, here’s what to expect at your first massage. A nice two- or three-minute video that goes through the procedure, what to expect, some different techniques you might use and really help people feel at ease when getting a massage. So if someone who is deaf comes to your website, clicks on the video, they’re going to see the images, but they’re not going to hear Allissa speaking or describing it. There’s going to be a whole part of the video experience missing for them. So you want to create videos with closed captions so people can read the captioning as they watch the video. So all videos should have closed captioning. Same thing that we do for our podcasts. So a podcast is audio. We have had some deaf users email us and say, hey, I love the fact that you provide transcripts of your podcasts because I can’t hear it, but I can go read it. So we are very much actively putting transcripts up of our podcasts for that reason.
Next I’m going to kind of lump a few things together, and this is content. I’m going to lump them together because in a massage business website that is fairly simple compared to Winn-Dixie or Beyoncé or a bank site, this all kind of goes together. So the content on your site really needs to be easy to read, easy to navigate, and easy to kind of get around in. So ADA compliance not only addresses things like video and text and images, it addresses how people actually understand your website. So if you write content that is grammatically awkward, that is extremely academic and written at such a high level that it’s very thick and difficult to get through, if it’s visually hard to read — if it’s got light text on a light background or dark text on a dark background, that kind of stuff — if any of that is a factor, that’s going to be in violation of ADA compliance. So you want to make sure your website text and the content and the copy is very easy to read, that is 8th grade level — really simple, really obvious, not grammatically awkward, really smooth. This is a good argument for hiring professional copyrighting, honestly. Make it really simple, use bullet points, use headers, make sure that people can visually digest what the sections are. So making your content as easy to read and consume as possible is really, really important. Search engines also like that as well.
Next, make all your functionality available from a keyboard. So people with dexterity issues often have trouble using a mouse, but they will use their keyboard to navigate the web. So your website needs to be navigable — I think that’s a word — using a keyboard, which means they need to be able to tab through the menu items on your website and then hit return to actually navigate to those pages. This is something your web developer needs to probably help you with. But you can verify this by trying it yourself. Just navigate through your website yourself using tabs and seeing if you can get around to them.
Next, provide people enough time to read news content. This won’t really apply too much to a massage business website, but this more applies to things like if there’s an application form or something and there’s a time limit on it, make sure the time limit doesn’t expire too quickly.
This one I don’t think is too much of an issue, but the — don’t use content in a way that is known to cause seizures. Don’t use flashing imagery. Don’t use videos that have a lot of lightning effects or things that do a lot of flashing or strobe effects. These are known to cause seizures. So make sure that you don’t have dynamic content that does that kind of stuff.
Next, provide a way for people to easily see where they are. Again, with a smaller website like most massage practice websites, not really a big issue. But if you have a lot of content, make sure that people know, hey, I’m in the blog section; hey, I’m in the services section; hey, I’m in the contact section. Make sure it’s really obvious, you know, it says “contact us” at the top of the page or “blog” at the top of the page and make sure it’s really simply and obvious to tell people where they are.
Next, help people avoid and correct mistakes. And this is really one of the big ones as well. So oftentimes, you’ll be filling out a form, like an intake form or booking online, and maybe you didn’t fill out the phone number correct. Maybe the form wants the phone number to be ten digits and dashes in between or a specific format, and you click the submit on the form and it comes back and says hey, please correct errors on the form or you didn’t fill this out correctly and it doesn’t tell you what the problem is. If people don’t know what the problem is, especially people with cognitive issues, they’re going to get very frustrated, they’re going to give up, and they’re not going to be able to actually work with you. So if there is a problem with filling to the form, for example, they left their email address out of the form, make sure the form actually says hey, please fill in your email address, and even better, highlight that field and make sure that field is very obviously turned red or highlighted or something. So that’s a really big issue when it comes to filling out things like intake forms or booking online.
And then finally, make sure that your website is compatible with modern web browsers across the board. So make sure that your website works in Chrome, in Firefox, on Mac, on Windows using Edge or Internet Explorer; all the major web browsers because people with disabilities often have to use a certain web browser to fit with the equipment they use or the software they use to get around, and you want to make sure it works with all the web browsers out there.
So that was a pretty — not a huge list, but I’m sure it can sound very intimidating. But the real factors are to make sure that you’re addressing blind users, so make sure the text alternatives are there; make sure you are addressing deaf users with closed captioning; make sure your content is easy to digest; make sure your website is easy to get around in; make sure that people can use their keyboard if they have dexterity issues. So kind of think through all of this stuff and just kind of put yourself in the shoes of people that make have these various disabilities, and that’ll help you also walk through this. And in the show notes, I’m going to put a link to some articles that really kind of spell it out in more detail to give you more of a visual reference as well.
I’ll stop there. It’s a lot of information, but I’ll kind of stop there, Allissa, and see what questions you have or what thoughts you have.
AH No, this is good. I’m going to think through a couple of things. I’ve known for a while that I need to redo the video on my site and put some captions on it, and this was the nudge I needed to finally get that done. So yeah, I’m excited to check out the resources and I’m going to carve out time in my calendar to spend a day with my website and make sure that I am compliant because I want to meet everyone’s needs.
MR All right, wonderful
AH That thoroughly covers today, people. If you have — see, I’m clearing my throat again. I’m like Michael today. Good grief. It’s so annoying, too, because it comes out really loud when people are listening on their cars and stuff.
MR You’re welcome.
AH Anyhow, if you have a question for us, you can send it to us as email@example.com. We love your questions, we love to answer them and sound like know-it-alls. Yay. And do us a favor and tell one of your friends, one of your massage friends, about our podcast and make sure they’re listening too. But otherwise, have a ridiculously successful day, everybody.
MR Thanks, everyone.