Whether you’re exercising for your summer vacation or for your next half marathon, many of us know that working out regularly will not only help us stay in shape but also improve our mental and emotional health. We have gym memberships and in-home weight rooms and running groups and yoga classes all to make sure that we stay fit.
Unfortunately, fitness is not always accessible for many in the United States, including adults with intellectual disabilities (ID). According to several studies, 91% of adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) are not getting the required amount of physical activity (150 minutes/week) recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Often lacking opportunities, this population faces several social and environmental barriers to getting the exercise that will enable them to live fulfilling, enjoyable lives.
As a team who understands the power of physical activity, we jumped at the opportunity to work with an organization that is endeavoring to reverse these statistics and make fitness accessible to this often underserved population.
Sunday Strong, a nonprofit organization based in Florida, exists to increase physical activity in adults with intellectual disabilities.
Through personal experience with her sister Maria and after hosting a weekly CrossFit class at her local gym for adults with intellectual disabilities, Sunday Strong founder Laura Radocaj realized that regular exercise could not only transform her sister’s life but also the greater community.
The improvement in participants’ health through these early classes was staggering. Athletes who had never run before progressed to running 100-meter sprints. Athletes who walked into class on their first day with their heads down are now holding their heads high during class with big smiles on their faces.
The success of Laura’s original fitness class inspired her to begin Sunday Strong and partner with fitness providers to host weekly group exercise classes for adults with intellectual disabilities at no cost to their athletes. Awed by this incredible story, Rule29 worked with Sunday Strong to not only help them build their brand but also educate them about the need for web accessibility as we built their new website. Together, we were able to bring fitness opportunities and web access to those who often lack both to bring much-needed awareness to the importance of all levels of ADA compliance.
Whether you’re in the design and development business or simply an everyday web user, it’s important to note some of the key factors in web accessibility that allow users with a range of abilities to enjoy their web experience.
Many websites are not created to be accessible to viewers with intellectual or physical disabilities. Today, 92% of the most popular federal websites fail to meet basic standards for accessibility.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design, set by the Department of Justice (DOJ), state that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) levels of conformance are A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest). For most, observing all A level guidelines while working towards all reasonable guidelines is the best course of action, especially if your website is just starting out. (AA and AAA are obtainable, but often require additional action beyond the web application.)
ADA-compliant websites are a win-win for everyone, allowing every visitor to make the most of their web experience. The following core POUR factors are important to consider when building a site.
Perceivable: The website’s information and all user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. In other words, nothing can be invisible to all of their senses. For example, Sunday Strong’s Class Locator automatically scrolls to the class locations after an area has been searched to ensure that the user clearly sees their search results.
Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform). Since some people need more time to type text, understand instructions, operate controls, or to otherwise complete tasks on a website, the Sunday Strong site does not automatically take any action (progress through a form, scroll through a page, etc.) unless the user initiates the action.
Understandable: The information and operation of the user interface must be understandable—the content or operation cannot be beyond their comprehension. Rule29 followed a consistent outline of text hierarchy and symbolism throughout the Sunday Strong website. For example, all clickable links, including those in the navigation bar, are underlined so that users understand that they are actionable.
Robust: All content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance. To follow this rule, Rule29 provided a name, role, and value for user interface components to enable assistive technologies to process the website’s content reliably.
Hoping to increase your SEO ranking? Google crawls accessible websites in greater detail than most non-accessible sites, typically resulting in higher organic search rankings. Adding alt text to images, transcribing audio files, providing text and audio descriptions for videos, adding captions to videos, having keyword-relevant links and header titles, descriptive H1s are just some examples of how to optimize your SEO strategy.
From improving user experience to providing equal opportunity to optimizing your site for search, ADA Compliance is one of the best ways to advance in today’s world. Sunday Strong is just one example of many organizations working hard to make their stories and services available to all.