Accessibility is a cornerstone feature of the internet that levels the playing field for everyone around the globe. According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), computer engineers designed the internet to be accessible for all users, regardless of their hardware or software, their language or location, or their natural abilities.
“The power of the web is in its universality,” W3C chairperson and internet founder Tim Berners-Lee said in a released statement. “Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect.”
When the internet meets this goal, it opens doors to people with a diverse range of sight, hearing, movement, and cognitive abilities. It also provides them with increased opportunities, including education, jobs, and online shopping for goods.
People with diverse abilities are one of the largest market segments in the world. In this article, small business owners will learn why they should prioritize ADA website compliance to serve all customers visiting their site. They’ll also learn four ways these sites can benefit their businesses and customers.
Why Does Accessibility Matter?
The W3C says that the impact that disabilities have on people’s lives has radically changed because of the internet. This technology has eliminated significant barriers to communication and interactions that many people with diverse abilities face in the physical world.
When webmasters create poorly designed websites, applications, technologies, or tools, this technology creates enormous barriers that prevent people from accessing the internet. For instance, people living with physical challenges, like blindness or hearing loss, may have issues interacting with a site if it doesn’t include the right accessibility enhancements.
Businesses should remember that accessibility can help those without disabilities, too. For instance, older people may have difficulty reading smaller fonts with different colors. Other people may have issues with slow connections, bad screens, and ‘temporary’ disabilities, such as an inability to read due to blurry vision caused by migraine headaches.
To ensure the web remains accessible for people with diverse abilities, the W3C commission launched its Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provides authors and developers with international standards for creating accessible internet content, web applications, and mobile apps. The latest version, WCAG 2.1, was published on June 15, 2018. Developers are currently working on WCAG 2.2, which will be released in early 2021.
The guidelines cover accessibility for different disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, language, learning, cognitive, and neurological. It currently doesn’t help people with mental illness and psychological disorders, but future updates may address these disabilities.
Why Should Businesses Design their Sites for ADA Website Compliance?
The W3C encourages small businesses and corporations to create accessible websites because it allows people with diverse abilities to have equal access to materials. The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also recognizes equal access to information and communication technologies as fundamental human rights.
ADA website compliance also supports social inclusion for people with disabilities, and others, such as older people, individuals living in rural areas, and people in developing nations.
The W3C commission states that accessibility also supports people without disabilities. It also argues that there is a strong case for businesses to incorporate accessibility.
This practice overlaps with other best practices championed by the W3C and search engine companies, like Google. These standards include search engine optimization (SEO), mobile web design, device independence, usability and multi-modal interaction, and design for older users.
Several studies have also found that sites that incorporate accessibility have reduced maintenance costs and increased audience reach when they adhere to the best accessibility standards and practices. For details, read Developing a Web Accessibility Case for Your Organization.
Four Reasons Your Business Should Have Accessible Websites
Are you still undecided about how ADA website compliance can benefit your business? Here are four fantastic reasons that your company should make your website accessible for everyone.
1. Accessible Websites Reduces Your Litigation Risks
Businesses must ensure their sites comply with Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department of Justice first approved the law in 1990. It later amended it with Titles II and III on July 26, 1991, which incorporated accessibility guidelines and regulations. The DOJ later updated the law once again on September 15, 2010.
Under the ADA’s State and Local Governments statute (Title II), these entities must protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination based on disability in services, programs, and activities provided by governmental agencies. It extends this prohibition on discrimination established by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by 29 U.S.C. 794. It covers all activities related to state and local governments, regardless of whether these organizations receive financial help.
Title III covers Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities. It prohibits discrimination based on disability in the activities of places of public accommodations. These are businesses open to the public and fall into one of the 12 categories listed in the ADA. It includes places such as:
- Movie theaters
- K-12 schools
- Higher education
- Recreation facilities
- Healthcare institutions
- Retail stores
- Nonprofit organizations
- Enterprise businesses
- Governmental agencies
Some legal eagles have also interpreted Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to define websites as “places of public accommodation.”
This interpretation has placed website owners at increased risk for legal action if their web sites are inaccessible to people with disabilities.
People may see websites with significant inaccessible components as discriminatory and in violation of Title II.
The ADA is also a strict liability law, which means there are no excuses or defenses for violating it.
Governmental organizations must comply with Section 508, which is part of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires federal agencies to make their electronic information and communications technology accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public unless it creates an undue burden on an agency.
Businesses’ Websites Face Increased Lawsuits Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Lawsuits related to web accessibility are currently on the rise in the United States. According to Law.com columnist Rocky Tsai, the COVID-19 pandemic has made ADA website compliance even more critical. Before the pandemic, over 10,000 ADA lawsuits packed federal courts. In 2019, individuals filed 2,235 lawsuits against companies for their inaccessible websites. Experts expect litigation to skyrocket in 2020 as businesses race to build new technology to handle a glut of online ordering, communication, and additional digital services.
Several major companies have already faced litigation because their sites don’t comply with ADA standards. These include fast-food giants like Dominos and Burger King, restaurants like Red Lobster and T.G.I. Friday’s, grocery stores like Safeway and Winn-Dixie, and e-commerce retailers like Amazon and Blue Apron.
2. Research Shows Web Accessibility Improves Your Search Engine Rankings
A second reason companies should build accessible sites is to improve their search engine rankings online.
According to Search Engine Land columnist Tony Edward, many elements of search engine optimization standards overlap with ADA website compliance standards. When sites follow the best standards and practices of SEO, they are optimizing your site and mobile apps for accessibility.
Some SEO tactics that support ADA website compliance include:
- Image Alt-Tags and Captions – These should have clear descriptions of content about images that allow screen readers to identify and read images properly. It also gives search engine bots indications about what an image is about and if it has a URL attached.
- Video Transcription and Tags – Do you have multimedia on your website? To meet ADA website compliance, you must have a readable transcript for audio-only and video-only media. Spend a few minutes to make sure your text is accurate. You should also add video titles, keywords, and descriptive text that help search engines and users find your content more easily.
- PDF – Small businesses should ensure that all of their PDF content is accessible by following Adobe Acrobat’s guide.
- Title-tags – These allow users to identify whether the information on your webpage is relevant to their needs by providing a title tag. It also allows Google to crawl it quickly and determine how the page should appear in its search results.
- Link-anchor-text – These should be descriptive. Text or buttons that only say “Click Here” are not ideal since they don’t communicate what the result would be. It’s recommended that you use a copy of the link to tell users and search engines what your site links to.
- On-site sitemaps, table of contents, and breadcrumbs – These simple sitemaps contain links to all major sections and pages of your website. They can allow your visitors to understand the contents of your website.
3. Accessible Websites Can Increase Sales and Conversions
Another benefit that accessible websites provide to businesses is increasing their website sales and conversions. According to the World Bank, 15 percent (one billion) of the world’s total population has a disability. One-fifth (110 – 190 million people) experience significant disabilities.
When you design your website for ADA website compliance, you’ll attract a large segment of buyers that can significantly increase your website traffic.
Researchers and businesses estimate the disposable and discretionary income of a group to assess their growth, population characteristics, and market size. Disposable income is the amount of money available to households for saving and spending after taxes. Discretionary income is the amount of money remaining after the deduction of taxes, other mandatory charges, and expenditures on necessary items.
In 2018, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released a study about Working-Age Adults with Disabilities. Their researchers found the total disposable income for working-age people with disabilities was $490 billion. Although this amount is only 7.2 percent of the disposable income of people without disabilities, it remains a sizable amount. Their organization found it is close to the total disposable income of other market segments, including African Americans ($501 billion) and Hispanics ($582 billion).
In 2019, disabled Americans spent more than $200 billion online in discretionary spending. With COVID-19, online sales and orders have exploded.
Improve Your Visitors’ User Experience (UX)
Accessible websites also improve the overall user experience for all of your users, not just people with disabilities.
Although you may concentrate on building a UX-focused online store, it elevates your store to the next level. For instance, adding accessibility features such as keyboard-based navigation, search by voice, increased content readability improves your site’s flow.
Adding accessible elements also allows search engines to discover your website more easily since you can add semantics, micro data, and ARIA tags to communicate the structure and purpose of your site.
4. It Improves Your Corporate Responsibility
Creating ADA-compliant websites also improves your corporate social responsibility. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, which conducts research-based user experience, consumers expect companies to be clear, authentic, and transparent. They compare corporate content with third-party reviews to develop their opinions about companies before they do business with them.
The Nielsen Norman Group also found that companies that try to donate back to societies and their communities are also seen as more benevolent and responsible than businesses that don’t make the same efforts. They love companies that care about people and the environment. Customers also prefer to patronize such businesses.
Users also have specific expectations about how and where companies should communicate their positive social impact (referred to as corporate social responsibility).
ADA Website Compliance is Achievable
Does your business need an accessible website that helps others within your community and improves your market reach?
LocalBiz Guru has professionals that can build a beautiful, ADA-compliant website design that reaches all of your customers, or audit and repair your current website to achieve ADA website compliance.
In fact, full ADA and WCAG compliance and certification can be achieved in 48 hours and monitored 24/7, and maintained thereafter!