Worst Practice: Creating a Separate “Optimized Web Accessible Version” of Your Website (Title III)

I am screen recording the homepage of an apartment website. And the reason I’m doing so is because they actually have a separate version of the website for people with disabilities.

This is a worst practice for both website accessibility and ADA compliance. At the very top of the website, there’s a small blue banner that reads We have an optimized web accessible version of this site available click here to view and otherwise the above the fold, which is all I’m looking at the homepage, it really amounts to a short video on loop of the pool and then there’s a pop ups on either side.

One is a $500 Look & Lease Special. The other is a chat bot with some different options available to schedule a tour and look at prices and availability. And then the top navigation menu has all of the different links available to click on.

And so I’m going to click on the top banner to see this separate version. And it opens up to a very plain page. It’s got a completely white background. There’s an about section, that’s the main section there are three paragraphs. Underneath the last paragraph is a $500 Look & Lease Special.

And then on the left side is the essential information like address, phone number, and office hours. And at the top right here is an expandable menu with the different links available. So again, you never want to have a separate version of the website, no matter how- no matter what the intention is.

And usually there is- there are good intentions here. But it’s just- it’s a lack of understanding of the different- 1) The Americans with Disabilities Act. But then 2) the practical and human rights considerations. Okay, so let’s start off with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And this is under sub part three; there are different subsections, but this is under Title Three, and I will link to this below. But under Separate benefit, and I’ll paraphrase it says it shall be discriminatory to provide an individual on the basis of disability with a different- with a good service facility accommodation etc.

That is different or separate from that provided to others unless such action is necessary to provide the good service accommodation, etc. That is as effective as that provided to others. Well, we already don’t meet the unless because it’s not necessary. All we need to do is make the website accessible.

And then we don’t have to bother with maintaining the separate website. But that gets me into another point is now when you have a separate version of the website, then that separate version of the website needs to be maintained and updated.

So let’s just think about practically in terms of an apartment, apartments need to update rent prices. And so it’s very easy to imagine a scenario where the rent prices are updated on the homepage, but then not on the separate version of the website.

And when we get into this back and forth of maintaining two websites, inevitably what happens? When websites were to be updated before the other and then eventually, some updates will just not be made in time or they’ll be forgotten about.

So in this scenario where we have an alternative version and the main version of the website. The main version is going to be updated first. Another problem is- there’s going to be a difference in content or functionality.

Because the reason that you would be making a separate website is because there are parts of the original website that you feel that you cannot make accessible for whatever reason.

So that means there are going to be two different experiences for one reason or another, whatever the case may be. There’s something on the original site where you don’t think you can make it accessible, so you feel the need to build this entirely separate website.

So again, that is going down the absolute wrong path and then we also have this idea that we’re going to treat someone differently because they have a disability and send them to a different page.

Again, that’s already off. That is just by in and of itself that is inherently wrong, the wrong course of action, even if you have this utopian idea where it’s like, hey, we’re going to make this separate website. It’s going to be amazing, it will be clearly accessible.

Even if there are the best of intentions, it’s still completely wrong. And then we have to also consider that. Okay, let’s say that we just have this best case scenario where there is a website that’s updated the same time it’s completely accessible.

And now I’m going to skip back to the original main website where even if that’s the case, it’s still possible that someone who would use the separate website could miss the fact that it’s even available because maybe they don’t notice the banner, right?

Because when I go to the separate version of the website, what I noticed is that the subfolder is slash screen reader. And so it’s obviously this separate version of website is intended for someone using a screen reader.
But again, not everybody is using a screen reader. Someone could potentially have low vision or they could be using a screen magnifier and simply miss the fact that there is this separate, accessible version of website and not know what’s there.

And then what’s also problematic is then someone might be put in the position of deciding Well, which version of the website will be best for me. And then again, every time you go with this idea of we’re going to create a separate website, you go off onto the wrong path.

So I wanted to make this video because it’s extremely important. This is a great instance- a great example of exactly what you don’t want to do. And I think it’s because apartments have had- for some reason what I’ve noticed over and over again, are apartments have difficulty with web accessibility.

I see them use all sorts of overlays. I think- I’ve seen four different overlays installed on apartment websites and really apartment websites that should not be using an overlay because-

I say this because their team should be more sophisticated and than to use an overlay and or think that an overlay could possibly make the apartment content and the functionality on your partner websites accessible.

So yeah, I’ll link to ada.gov below. But again, the point here is to never use a separate or alternative version of your website.