All businesses, whether online or within a building are under American with Disability Act (ADA) regulations. For online businesses, this may come as a surprise. What does a law intended for architecture and urban planning have to do with websites? Websites, like public spaces, are categorized as places of public accommodation, just in the digital realm. So, whether you’re a blogger, a small e-tailer, a big box retailer or your business is a service, your site must be accessible to people of all abilities. Statistics for the number of people with a disability range from 12%-25% depending on the demographic and what organization is tracking the data. That is a LOT of potential customers and audience reach! Not to mention, it’s socially responsible to be inclusive. Besides improving your brand image, making your site accessible will also improve SEO with content-rich keywords.
The World Bank, CDC and many other organizations track disability statistics and definitions. A disability includes a variety of conditions including motor, vision, hearing and cognitive and learning. A disability also could be temporary, like pregnancy or a broken leg, of which many of us experience. And, let’s face it. Time is not on our side. The aging population experiences increased sensory, motor and cognitive disabilities, so let’s be mindful of our future. The tech savvy population now will likely continue to be reliant on technology as they age and demand a high-quality experience. This is an opportunity for online businesses to be forward-thinking in winning the aging population as well as gaining a loyal following.
Of course, nobody intends to exclude people when setting up their website. But the truth is, unless you make a conscious effort to make your site accessible, it won’t happen naturally. In the ideal world, accessibility would be considered in the planning stages of web development. However, it’s never too late to get started.
Now that you’re in the know, doing nothing isn’t an option. Besides leaving market share on the table, you are leaving yourself open to the risk of a lawsuit. The number of lawsuits has increased 300% in the last five years with California and New York leading states for filings. Your website reaches consumers across the country, so a suit could be filed in any state as well as federal court. Most lawsuits do settle out of court, but with a cost that is completely avoidable.
The first step is to do an assessment to determine the accessibility issues you’ll have. The most commonly used standard is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) by the W3 organization. Depending on the scope of your site, enlist your web team of developers, designers and content contributors. Everyone has accountability for accessibility. It is tempting to rely on the overwhelming amount of open-source software, tools and plug ins to help in accessibility testing. No tool can produce a comprehensive report of issues nor say your site meets compliance. A hybrid approach with manual testing in combination with tools gets the best results. If the overall effort is too much, seek the help of a professional.
It’s also quite a discovery to experience your website in the shoes of someone using assistive technology. It will broaden your understanding of how your site is used and inspire you to improve usability for all. Once your site is remediated, often it improves usability for all, not just for people using assistive technology. Our Basics of Manually Testing for ADA will get you started.
Once you are on the path to accessibility in remediating your site, consider other channels to your consumer. Provide adequate or dedicated technical and customer service support and make sure your support staff is well-trained. Whether you’re 100% compliant or not, publish an Accessibility Statement on your website and be transparent about your efforts with meeting WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Call out any known issues and when they plan to be addressed. Being upfront to your consumers about your accessibility status will go a long way with good will and mitigating risk.
Find out today if your website follows the WCAG guidelines with Adally’s free homepage scan. CLICK HERE For Your Free Scan