Making your website accessible is a way to be socially responsible, avoid litigation and win new customers all at the same time. Those who have a disability should expect a digital experience that is inclusive of their needs, much like they would experience in a physical place of public accommodation. And with the world relying on websites more than ever before, creating a website that provides a fair experience to all should be the minimum standard for any business, institution or organization.
What kinds of disabilities does an accessible website benefit?
Making a website accessible serves a diverse group of people with disabilities.
Those with visual impairments like blindness, color blindness or low-level vision may use screen readers like JAWS or a software with zoom capabilities to experience a website. There are 285 million people worldwide with visual impairments, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For context, this is almost the size of the entire U.S. population.
Deaf and hard of hearing individuals will benefit from an accessible website too. Tactics like closed captioning videos and providing transcripts for audio content will go a long way to improving the experience these individuals have with your website. The WHO reports that an astounding 466 million people worldwide have a hearing disability.
Mobility impairments – from paralysis to weakness – requires an increased reliance on keyboards, so making a website accessible to this population is extremely important. The CDC reports that over 16% of the U.S. population has some kind of mobility impairment.
Nearly ¼ of the U.S. population has some sort of cognitive disability, most of them younger adults. This disability may also be combined with a physical disability but can include a range of other impairments including dyslexia, ADD and even mental illness.
Retrofit or redesign your website?
Every new website designed and developed should be done so against current WCAG guidelines, but many website owners struggle with how to proceed with their site in light of website accessibility priorities. The first step is to have an audit done of your website so that you can understand what accessibility violations your website has. A certified accessibility expert can help you evaluate whether the violations are fairly easy to solve, or whether it might necessitate a larger redesign project which would be done with accessibility guidelines as part of the baseline requirements.
Routine accessibility checks should be part of your plan
Once your site is accessible, you have the responsibility to keep it accessible. Unfortunately, with most websites managed by a group of people and the simple fact that it’s so easy to violate a guideline, it’s important that you enlist an expert to do accessibility testing of your site on a regular basis. Automated accessibility tools can help you flag issues, but you will still need to identify which are major and minor fixes, and of course implement them. Manual scanning services can also help you prioritize issues for you to then fix. Whichever method you prefer, you need to make sure that your budget accounts for this ongoing service.
Roles and responsibilities – everyone plays a part
When it comes to website accessibility, everyone is responsible. Your strategy/UX/design teams need to partner together to develop a website strategy and design that are considerate of current WCAG guidelines. Your development team will need to also understand how to properly implement WCAG guidelines. And even your content development and marketing teams should be aware of website accessibility best practices so that they can plan with this in mind. Of course, your legal and compliance teams should also be aware of best practices and guide you along the way. Once you have a site that adheres to guidelines, be sure to also alert your customer service team of how to respond to and escalate any claims about compliance concerns from your customers.
The current legal landscape - lawsuits continue
The first half of 2021 saw a 64% increase in lawsuits regarding websites, apps and videos that were inaccessible. While ecommerce sites led the way in terms of the number of lawsuits, digital media and agencies, finance, food service and healthcare rounded out the top five most sued. These industries correspond with the uptick in usage of these sites and apps during the pandemic, so come as no surprise.
While lawsuits continue and usage of apps and websites is higher than ever, it’s never been more important to make sure that website accessibility is on your priority list. Our certified experts are here to help you navigate the world of website accessibility, so contact us to learn more and discuss your specific needs.