Having a robust online presence is essential for modern businesses. With Americans spending more and more time online, ensuring that your website is accessible to everyone in your audience is vital.
In the physical world, we are well accustomed to the ramps and specialized facilities that promote inclusivity and cater to those with disabilities. Like brick-and-mortar stores, the digital world requires the same amount of thought and effort toward accessibility; not to mention the potential legal landmines that pose themselves. Delve into the ways that your website could benefit from web accessibility and, most of all, why it matters.
Decoding Web Accessibility
At its core, web accessibility is about ensuring that regardless of the potential auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual challenges, everyone has equitable access to information online. However, regulations around accessibility and websites are still in their beginning stages. Over 98% of web home pages don’t align with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, leaving most websites unusable for those with disabilities.
A New Gold Standard
Though the legal landscape surrounding digital accessibility is evolving, the first big step toward making the Internet accessible to all was made in 2018. That year the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) classified websites as public accommodations. This meant that websites, tools, and other digital platforms had to align with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifics of this decision are still being ironed out, though consensus leans on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set by the International Web Standards Committee, W3C. These guidelines focus on four pillars of accessibility:
- Perceivability: Ensuring information is presented in ways all users can grasp.
- Operability: Making web functionalities user-friendly and navigable.
- Understandability: Ensuring clarity in content and predictability in navigation.
- Robustness: Ensuring compatibility with current and future assistive technologies.
For more details on the guidelines, visit W3C’s website here.
Why Should Your Business Care?
Website accessibility will not only keep you out of trouble, but it’s also a win-win strategic business move.
- Legal compliance: From Target owing the National Federation of the Blind $6 million in damages to Harvard paying out $1.5 million to the Association of the Deaf, a lack of web accessibility can bring you to court. However, payouts aren’t only coming from big corporations. From 2017-2019, federal lawsuits related to web inaccessibility surged by over 1,153%.
- Business growth: An accessible website can not only help with how well your business is perceived but also open up your market to those who may not be able to access your business. Studies show that over 71% of users with accessibility needs abandon websites that don’t cater to them or their needs. This lost revenue is estimated to be worth up to $15 billion. Tapping into accessibility not only gives you access to this market but also can help build a loyal customer base.
- SEO benefits: When your website is coded and developed to follow WCAG guidelines, you’re more likely to appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Many accessibility enhancements such as meta descriptions, alt text, color contrasting rules, and many others help to make your pages more SEO friendly. This can boost traffic to your websites, reduce bounce rates, and drive conversions all in one swoop.
- The broad impact: The CDC reports that 26% of the U.S. population, or about 61 million adults, live with some form of disability. But accessibility isn’t just about catering to diagnosed disabilities. From temporary impairments to challenges like dyslexia, web accessibility caters to a broad spectrum of users. As mobile screen reader usage surges as well, it’s evident that accessibility tools are used by many.
Implementing accessibility and making a change will help increase your business’s popularity and develop a community of users. Beyond the numbers, it’s about building a digital world where everyone feels included.
In the end, the benefits of an accessible website extend beyond compliance, opening doors to a broader audience and enhancing the user experience for all. The digital realm should mirror the inclusivity we strive for in the physical world, offering a space where everyone feels valued. With the tools and guidelines available, businesses have the roadmap to create inclusive digital platforms. As we continue to evolve in the online space, let’s prioritize accessibility, ensuring that no user is left behind. Embracing this change is not just good business; it’s the right thing to do.