More than 60 million Americans live with a disability. The most common types include reduced mobility (affecting 1 in 7 U.S. adults) and impaired vision.
The number of people with visual impairment or blindness in the United States is expected to soar to 8 million by 2050. In fact, more than 3.4 million people across the States are legally blind, this means it’s increasingly important for businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has been in effect for nearly 30 years.
In fact, more than one million people across the States are legally blind, and this is expected to soar to 8 million by 2050. This means it’s increasingly important for businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has been in effect for nearly 30 years.
An ADA consultant empowers companies to meet expectations in a more effective manner and reduce their risk of encountering legal difficulties. But how can you choose the right candidate for your business? And what does the role involve?
Essential Qualities of an ADA Consultant
Failing to comply with the ADA can see companies suffer bad publicity and legal action, such as the boutique hotel discussed in this LA Times article.
Hiring an ADA consultant demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and delivering an equal experience to all clients. This relates to businesses and organizations across diverse sectors, from retail and catering to entertainment. Regulations apply to brick-and-mortar locations and websites alike.
But choosing an ADA consultant for your business is no small matter. It’s no good hiring one without ensuring they meet the criteria required: a candidate without the necessary qualifications or experience could still end up costing you money through missed opportunities.
Let’s explore the main qualities of a good ADA consultant.
Knowledge and awareness of the latest regulations
The ADA is subject to changes from time to time. Ignorance is not an excuse: it’s up to your business to comply with the latest amendments and avoid clumsy oversights.
This is why any prospective ADA consultant should be up to date on the most recent regulatory developments. For example, they may belong to the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAPP), a respected group committed to highlighting accessibility issues and improving life for those affected by disabilities.
Other credentials, memberships, and education related to disability issues demonstrates a genuine passion for the subject. As a result, any candidate with a strong portfolio of achievements is likely to help your business comply with the ADA at all times.
However, bear this in mind: no official registries or degrees make someone a certified ADA consultant. Training and experience are invaluable, but be wary of candidates claiming they are officially recognized or hold a degree that explicitly qualifies them for the role.
Provable experience and references
Following on from the point above, let’s be clear: experience in a role related to ADA compliance or working to improve accessibility is an obvious benefit for any candidate.
Of course, consultants offering real value are likely to command a higher salary. This can be off-putting for businesses, especially smaller enterprises on a tight budget. And you may consider cutting corners by hiring an ADA consultant without provable experience or references.
This is understandable — but it’s also a huge mistake.
Appointing the wrong person as your ADA consultant could lead to costly errors, legal ramifications, and negative publicity which damage your business’s reputation for years to come.
Take the time to find a professional with evidence of quality work and honest references from previous employers or colleagues. Be willing to pay a higher salary to secure the services of a reputable, well-trained consultant.
An ability to plan for enhancing your ADA compliance
The right ADA consultant will take a close look at your business, your premises, and/or your website to determine an effective strategy.
For example, your website may be well-designed and cater to those with impaired vision of differing degrees (with options to change font size, high-contrast colors, etc.), while your brick-and-mortar site falls far short of expectations.
In this case, the ADA consultant would need to establish a plan to improve your compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This may include:
- Conducting an audit of the website and premises to identify issues
- Identifying the needs of those affected by impaired vision or blindness
- Understanding which changes must be made and how to implement them
- Testing the site/facilities after adjustments to determine success
- Setting up ongoing monitoring to catch potential problems in the future
Each case is different and your business has specific needs. The right ADA consultant makes an effort to understand this and deliver the most effective strategy for keeping you compliant.
Take the time to consider these essential qualities before choosing an ADA consultant for your business. You want to receive maximum value for money in the long run, and you won’t achieve this if you settle on the first candidate you find out of sheer laziness.
Don’t be afraid to be open about your current or previous compliance-related shortcomings, either. Recognizing any mistakes or oversights your business has made in the past will help you improve accessibility in the future.
It’ll also help the ADA consultant understand how much damage your reputation has suffered (if any) and pinpoint opportunities to enhance your services.
Working with an ADA Consultant to Make Accessibility Changes
Once you’ve chosen an ADA consultant, it’s vital that you take their findings and recommendations on board. This can be difficult at times, particularly if you’re not used to addressing accessibility issues.
Yet you must avoid the temptation to assume you know better or that complying with the ADA is unimportant. Everyone in your target audience has the right to enjoy the same standard of service, both in your brick-and-mortar location and website. Believing otherwise does a disservice to them, to your customers, and your entire brand.
In terms of those affected by blindness or vision impairments, they’re more vulnerable to certain problems than those without sight-related issues. Your consultant is sure to recommend steps your business can take to cater to them better.
Such as? Here are some key ideas.
Indoor orientation solutions
Finding your way around an unfamiliar location can be tough enough for those without impaired vision. Navigating corridors, stairways, and open spaces with no idea how to reach your destination may be intimidating, even unnerving.
Now imagine you have no way to see what lies ahead. All physical obstacles, steps, doors, signs, and fixtures pose a potential hazard. This places those living with impaired vision at greater risk — which is what makes indoor orientation solutions such a benefit.
You can work with your ADA consultant to implement an indoor orientation solution, such as RightHear, in your business. This innovative app works in conjunction with cutting-edge sensors installed in strategic spots.
People affected by sight loss can find their way in all areas covered just by following the app’s audible guidance, based on their current location.
For example, they may be looking for a specific office in a large building. The RightHear app would provide the user with a comprehensive breakdown of what’s around them, including barriers, information points, rooms, etc.
They can rely on these details information to get where they need to, stay safe, and maintain their independence.
Proper signage accommodating vision impairments
Good signage is crucial for all visitors to your premises, but especially for those living with impaired vision or blindness. While your current signs may be stylish and align with your brand’s aesthetic, they could be inaccessible.
- Text or images are too small for those with poor eyesight
- Lack of color contrast makes directions difficult to follow
- Signs may be placed too high and out of range for people affected by sight-related problems
These are just a few problems ineffective signage can cause. Your ADA consultant should assess your current signs to determine whether or not they comply with regulations.
Options to improve the accessibility of your signage include integrating Braille, introducing greater contrast between colors, utilizing a bigger font, and placing signs at a more comfortable level.
Website accessibility and poor design
Your business’s website should accommodate all visitors equally. Users affected by blindness or vision impairments experience the online world in a totally different way than others, depending on text-to-speech programs and screen readers.
Your website should be tailored to deliver the best experience possible, regardless of the visitors’ capabilities. Content should be planned and presented with the aforementioned tools in mind.
For example, text should be written in such a way that it’s still clear when read aloud. All images should have ALT tags, too, which describe the contents and paint a picture in the user’s mind.
Your ADA consultant may work with a professional web designer to achieve the highest standard of accessibility. Making changes does incur some expense, but it’s well worth the investment to ensure your business complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act at all times.
The internet helps people living with disabilities, including vision impairments or blindness, to have their voice heard. And this means they can raise awareness of the accessibility issues they experience, helping to build a more accessible world.
Lead by example and bring a professional, passionate ADA consultant into your business. Take the time to not only meet expectations, but actually exceed them.