In recent years, web accessibility has created much uncertainty in the business sector. In 2019, there were 2235 companies sued for not being accessible, out of which 21% were sued multiple times.
The general demand – make websites and other digital products accessible to everyone. In these cases, the court often decided in favor of the plaintiff.
Online accessibility cases involving websites, mobile apps, and other digital products continue to increase partly due to the lack of specific regulation.
Nonetheless, despite these, many businesses still fail to consider the standards of web accessibility and ADA compliance best practices. This may be mainly attributed to the common myth that the required remediations, like website redesign and retrofitting, are too costly or difficult to implement.
On the contrary, compliance with web accessibility guidelines and ADA’s legal requirements can reap several benefits such as lack of bad press and litigation, increased revenue, improved SEO, and better customer experience.
Web Accessibility Becoming So Crucial Nowadays
Web accessibility is all about allowing equal access and opportunity to everyone in using the web. Accessibility favors inclusion and eliminates bias between the disabled and non-disabled.
Web accessibility is crucial since the Web is considered a vital resource as it covers almost every aspect of our daily lives nowadays.
With it, everyone can have equal opportunity in accessing many areas, including government services, health care, and online purchasing of products and services.
Web accessibility benefits everyone, including people suffering from any sort of disability, as it empowers all individuals to actively participate thereby improving the quality of life for all.
There’s a strong business case for web accessibility too. Creating an accessible site also correlates to the best practices of universal design—thus ensuring usability, faster load speed, and improved SEO.
Moreover, as there are still many gray areas when it comes to the law, the best route to litigation avoidance is to start doing something now.
Early implementation and adherence to authority web accessibility guidelines, regulations, and policies will be the safest way to protect your business and open it to a wider audience.
The Domino’s Pizza Case
Domino’s Pizza case is a known web accessibility case involving a big brand. The plaintiff, a blind customer, failed to order a pizza online via Domino’s website and app despite several attempts using his screen reader. Thus, the plaintiff alleged that the website and the mobile app are not accessible and the ADA standards.
In the end, the court ruled that if an online order was not taken or completed, it’s as if the order was denied at a regular store (which is a known place of public accommodation as mentioned in Title III of the ADA).
What is Web Accessibility?
Web page accessibility is a process that is followed to address the problems encountered by people with disabilities on the web (due to the presence of print, visual and audio barriers).
Millions of people with disabilities are sometimes being excluded in using, participating, communicating and interacting on the web.
Accessibility standards, regulations, and policies were therefore developed to stop this form of online discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, declares it illegal to discriminate against persons with disabilities. It discourages the denial or exclusion of individuals with diverse conditions from enjoying public facilities, goods, and services.
And while websites and other digital products are not specifically mentioned in the law, various courts interpreted ADA to include digital platforms as places of public accommodation.
Moreover, the DOJ issued a resolution that organizations covered by the ADA are bound to observe digital accessibility best practices and are urged to use the WCAG 2.1 technical requirements.
Section 508 and WCAG
Section 508 is an accessibility requirement imposed on federal agencies to make their information, communication, and technology (ICT) easily accessible to persons with disabilities.
In 2018, section 508 was refreshed and some changes were introduced, including harmonizing its rule with web content accessibility guidelines and other international standards, assessing ICT products based on functionality instead of product type, and incorporating interoperability features on its operating systems with assistive technologies.
While Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides uniform digital accessibility guidelines. As an internationally recognized set of instructions, the WCAG is the most recommended accessibility standards when creating websites, digital content, mobile apps, and other digital products.
WCAG 2.0 Vs WCAG 2.1
WCAG 2.0 is based on the four principles of accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Also, the WCAG 2.0 contains guidelines with 61 success criteria concerning content, text, images, sounds, code, and markup accessibility. It’s also coupled with three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.
While, WCAG 2.1 added 17 new criteria for mobile accessibility, especially addressing the needs of the visually impaired, those with cognitive and learning disabilities.
It still embraces the same categories, criteria, and levels of conformance that are found in WCAG 2.0. What’s good about these 2 versions is that they don’t necessarily replace one another, since they are backward compatible. Thus, if you comply with WCAG 2.1, then you automatically comply with 2.0.
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)
The VPAT is a self-disclosing document executed by the vendor which is a voluntary assessment of its ICT according to section 508.
It details a product’s accessibility as well as possible deficiencies. Also, VPAT helps agencies to have a piece of background information on the products’ accessibility before they can decide to purchase it.
5 Different Benefits for Your Business
Adhering to web accessibility practices is not only for the sake of people with disabilities.
Everyone can benefit from web accessibility as it supports better usability and excellent user experience to all. There are several benefits to your business which includes:
1# Reaching a Wider Audience
Having an accessible site broadens your audience reach. You open doors of opportunity for many people with disabilities to access your site, including those with permanent visual, hearing, cognitive and motor impairments, as well as people with temporary, situational or conditional disabilities.
2# Build Positive Public Relations
With an accessible site, you build positive public relations as people will perceive you as thoughtful, socially responsible, and trustworthy. Positive public perception makes loyal clients as well as attracts more visitors.
Your business will be patronized by both the disabled and non-disabled users, thereby helping you rise above your competitors.
3# Enlarge Your Market Penetration
If your website is not accessible, then you are alienating at least 15 to 20% possible web visitors.
If you engage in selling products or offering services, then you are losing the potential annual spending power of people with disabilities which is approximately $200 billion.
On the contrary, if you opt to pursue having an accessible website then you are helping yourself broaden your market penetration.
4# Improve Your SEO
Web accessibility standards are synonymous with the best practices of Search Engine Optimization.
When you make your website accessible you are likewise improving your SEO. This means better search ranking for your site, among others.
5# Help Grow Your Business
Surely, your business will grow if your website is accessible and you are always up to date on the best practices of web accessibility.
Increased brand awareness, positive public perception, wider market penetration, and better SEO are only some benefits of web accessibility—though these alone can tremendously level up your business game.
Web accessibility is a good reminder that businesses have a social responsibility to fulfill. Part of it is to accommodate everyone, especially people with disabilities.
Pursuing web accessibility benefits society as a whole. The good news is that business can reap heaps of gains too.
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Author Bio: David Gevorkian is the CEO/Founder of Be Accessible. He started because of his passion for website accessibility and ADA compliance. He spent much of his career working for financial institutions creating websites and mobile applications. Further, he earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. David is an advocate for creating web interfaces usable by all people. He enjoys recording music and playing soccer with friends.