When a manufacturing industry website is accessible, it ensures that all visitors can navigate and engage with your content easily. When customers can quickly find the products they’re looking for, it improves their user experiences and loyalty. When employees can easily do their jobs, it increases employee satisfaction and productivity. And when prospects can get answers to their questions and product information in a sensible, stress-free way, it increases the likelihood they will become a customer.
Under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), all places of public accommodation, including most businesses that serve the public, must be accessible to people with disabilities. Recent court rulings have provided additional guidance on the act as it applies to websites, applications, software and other digital tools used by the public, as well as in the workplace.
How Does the ADA Apply to Digital Tools in Manufacturing?
Manufacturing ADA requirements, therefore, include both accessibility to physical locations, reasonable accommodations for worker tasks and accessible online tools. This could include:
Manufacturing Management Tools:
- Company websites and e-commerce sales platforms.
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
- Enterprise Management Systems (EMS).
- Content Management Systems (CMS).
Manufacturing Operations Tools:
- Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) systems.
- Robotics user interfaces.
- Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).
- Computer-Numeric Control (CNC) machining centers.
- 3D printing stations.
- Internet of Things (IoT) device interfaces for cameras and sensors.
The Importance of ADA Compliance in Manufacturing
In addition to the business benefits, it’s the law. Failure to comply with ADA regulations can result in costly lawsuits and damage to your company’s reputation.
Finally, investing in making your workplace accessible and inclusive to all employees helps with workforce development and recruiting. Research by McKinsey that includes a study of more than 1,000 large companies shows that when businesses invest in diversity, equity and inclusion it improves business performance. It stands to reason that when your workplace and company’s tools are accessible to all, your employees are more likely to feel valued.
How to Test for Digital Accessibility
Manufacturing plants today are technologically advanced facilities that typically undergo rigorous inspection and are regulated for quality and safety. But reviewing accessibility for your company’s website does not fall under these types of reviews.
To effectively gauge ADA compliance, you will want to conduct a thorough review of your website and the wide range of tech tools within your operations. Here are some best practices to get you started:
Working with IT and operations, compile a list of all digital assets for review. List those which are controlled in-house, such as your company website or proprietary software, and those that are managed by third-party vendors.
Gather feedback from users
Talk with customers and employees about the technology they use, problems they frequently encounter and changes they’d like to see. These questions should focus on the user interface, whether it’s easy to use and if it’s compatible with assistive technology, like screen readers or using a keyboard instead of a mouse.
Review your assets and develop an accessibility strategy
Conducting an audit on your digital accessibility should begin with an accessibility strategy. A review of your website(s) and applications will help you prioritize the order in which your company’s touchpoints and digital components will be tested and addressed. You will then build a strategy to determine the testing methods you’re going to use, create a timeline, and whether you have the internal capacity to make the necessary changes or if you need to work with a partner to achieve your goals.
Work with third-party vendors
More and more companies are working toward implementing accessibility features in their products, such as SaaS and operations software. Because you do not have direct control over these products and their accessibility, talk to your managed services provider about your accessibility efforts and their plan for becoming ADA compliant. Tell them about any accessibility issues you see and they may even ask you for feedback on other areas where they can improve the product.
Whether conducting a technical conformance review or usability testing, your testing should evaluate key websites and digital user interfaces to evaluate whether people with disabilities can understand and engage with them and analyze areas for remediation.
It’s unlikely you will be able to make all the needed changes at once, so as you create your implementation schedule, it will be important to communicate to employees when they can see these improvements.
Continue to gather feedback
Ask customers and employees with disabilities to provide feedback as changes are made. Use this information to continually improve the accessibility of your digital assets. Another option and way to receive feedback quickly is by working with and testing new content on your website is by working with assistive technology users.
How TPGi Can Help
When it comes to ensuring your manufacturing website and other digital assets are accessible, you may want to lean on experts to lead the effort. At TPGi, we’ve created a full spectrum Accessibility Resource Center platform, ARC, that provides management and testing tools, training resources, and a foundation of knowledge, to support your efforts. ARC can help you plan, manage, and execute every area of digital accessibility, including manual and automated testing.
To learn how TPGi can help your manufacturing company assess its accessibility, contact us to schedule a demo.