Professional locksmiths today rely more than ever on well-designed websites to highlight and promote their products and services. This is particularly true in highly competitive areas, such as major cities and growing suburbs, where customers habitually research their options online before choosing a service professional such as a locksmith.

Creating, maintaining, and ensuring your website is accessible to every citizen is critical to success in the locksmith industry. This absolutely includes customers who may have disabilities and difficulties in accessing the information on your website.

According to Prevent Blindness America, more than 53 million Americans aged 45+ have some form of mild to severe visual impairment, and approximately 18% are considered legally blind. Yet visually impaired people are highly dependent on the Internet for information and access to services such as those provided by professional locksmiths. Furthermore, as the American population ages, Internet usage will continue to increase among the visually impaired.

Those with reading disabilities utilize assistive technology such as screen readers, text enlargement software and voice-controlled programs on their web devices. Therefore, they rely almost exclusively on accessible websites – and businesses that cater to their needs. Poorly designed websites create barriers for the disabled, which naturally causes them to turn to the competition. If you’re a professional locksmith who relies on your website for any aspect of your operation, it is essential for your web pages to be ADA compliant and fully accessible to the reading impaired.

How do I make my locksmith website ADA compliant?

Many website designers falsely assume that everyone sees a webpage exactly the same way. Savvy designers recognize the need to provide visually impaired people access by implementing techniques that allow blind people, those with low vision, and other reading disabilities to access the information the rest of us take for granted. Here are a few basic solutions to transform your restricted access website to a site accessible to all:

Add a Text Equivalent to Every Relevant Image & Graphic

Be explicit with images and graphics on your site by clearly labeling and using alternative text to describe the image.  Alt-text for images is as simple as adding alt=”your description of the image” within the image tag. When using alt-text, place the most important information first, such as your company name, followed by a brief description, as long descriptions will quickly lose the reader’s attention.

As an example, an image of you installing a home lock should have an alt-text similar to, “AAA Locksmith installs the best locks quickly and affordably” – as opposed to “We install locks.” Every picture of your work, products, and services should display clean, easy to read, correctly-spelled text for the visually impaired who many not be able to view the image. Alt-text reflects the professionalism of your business for the visually impaired.

Accessible Links

When using graphics or images as links – which can be extremely effective for locksmith websites highlighting specific products and services – always be certain the link is labeled clearly and meaningfully. While most web users will click an image without reading the label, visually impaired viewers must see the meaning of the link before following it to the next destination.

A disabled visitor your site may not be able to see the picture of a technician cracking a safe, but if that linked picture includes a concise, descriptive label, their viewing technology will guide them to the safe-cracking information you want them to read.

In this example, a graphic link can be labeled “AAA Locksmith Safecracking Experts 24/7,” which the viewing impaired will immediately recognize even if they cannot clearly see the picture you’ve posted.

Similarly, text links should be clearly labeled as well. Although viewing technologies will naturally display the text link information you display, adding the extra layer of labeling provides extra incentive for a potential customer to follow the link where you want them to be.

Structure Labeling

Most well-crafted websites have several sections containing functions such as information type, navigation, contact details, advertisements and offer, etc., and these sections can vary in terms of color, font, and/or format. Web pages with sections or frames must be specifically labeled in order for disabled viewers to distinguish the variations.

Most HTML programs offer labelling options for frames which are viewable with many of today’s visually impaired viewing technologies. Pages divided into regions, rather than frames, are also easily labeled by adding subheading to different regions, which are viewable to the visually impaired, yet remain hidden in standard Web browsers. It can be as simple as inserting <h2>AAA Locksmith Special Offers</h2> at the beginning of that specific section, and repeating for each additional section on each page.

By labeling every different frame or region, you are greatly increasing the chances that a potential disable customer will see ALL the important information your business site has to offer, rather than sections they may very well skip over simply by not noticing the differences.

Separate Content and Structure

Your website’s structure must be independent of presentation to be accessible to the vision impaired. Alterations to presentation may include text and image element changes, element spacing, or elements completely invisible to those with vision problems. As stated by the W3C, to enable different browsing methods to work on the different types of viewing technologies, developers must utilize code to create a structure independent of presentation.

An ADA compliant underlying structure provides relevant semantic tags such as headers, paragraphs, and list item tags to ensure that today’s visual assistant technologies can interpret the information and present it in alternative forms to the visually impaired relying on these technologies.

At 1-800-Unlocks, we highly recommend that professional locksmiths get the website help they need so they can help customers in need. Locksmiths are entrusted by commercial clients to ensure doorways are meeting ADA standards as mentioned in The Locksmith Ledger. For more information about how we can improve your website, please contact us today.