When we think about disabilities, we often think of permanent disabilities such as blindness or someone who has been Deaf since birth. However, many disabilities are more subtle and could be considered temporary or situational. Considering this, about 20-25% of the population is currently living with a disability. If there is one reason alone to ensure an accessible web, it's that.
What is website accessibility?
Web accessibility is a set of rules, behaviors, code standards, and design guidelines to allow people with disabilities to use websites effectively. Having an accessible website means that all people can readily perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with a website.
Assistive Technology Helps But It's Not the Answer
People with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities find that browsing websites can be complicated and many times impossible. People with permanent, temporary, and situational disabilities rely on assistive technology like screen readers, closed captions, keyboard navigation, and zooming to engage with websites. While these tools effectively allow people with disabilities to perceive content and operate a website, many websites are not developed in a way that will enable these tools to be fully capable. Additionally, according to a report by the University of Sheffield and the Oxford Institute of Ageing Population, assistive technologies are not enough to address older people's needs with dual sensory impairment.
The time is now to ensure your website and web assets are accessible to people with disabilities. Here are six critical reasons why every website owner should move "Make my website accessible" to the top of their priority list.
#1 Take Social Responsibility
The idea that a website should be equally accessible to all people is considered a fundamental human right by the United Nations. With almost one-quarter of the population having a disability, the main reason to ensure your website is accessible is to guarantee that all people can use your website without issue.
#2 Compliance with ADA
Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability by places of "public accommodation." In 2018, The Department of Justice officially affirmed that all websites are considered public accommodations and must comply with ADA Title III. With this affirmation, between 2017 and 2018, the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled (from 814 to 2,258). The number of website accessibility lawsuits continues to grow as we saw last year, web, app, and video accessibility cases went up almost 25% compared to 2019. As website lawsuits are on the rise, there is no time other than the present to ensure your web assets comply with ADA Title III, WCAG 2.1, EN 301549, and Section 508.
#3 Improve User Experience
User experience is at the forefront of conversations regarding web design, functionality, Conversion Rate Optimization, and SEO ranking. As webmasters and digital marketers, we fully understand the value of great UX. Website users with disabilities are more often than not discouraged with the everyday web experience. If your website is accessible and easy to use, you're ensuring that those people's user experience is greatly improved.
#4 Follow Website Best Practices
Not only is having an accessible website helpful for people with disabilities, but it's also great for SEO. It's a win-win! Tagging images with relative keywords and using headers, and subheaders in hierarchical order helps web bots digest the information and helps those that rely on assistive technology like screen readers. In 2018, Google gave great recognition to website accessibility with its launch of Lighthouse, a free, open-source site monitoring tool that includes an Accessibility audit. This audit's inclusion in the tool highlights the importance of accessibility to Google, which further demonstrates a new and improved web standard.
#5 Reach a Wider Audience
As we know, a poor website experience can quickly turn away potential leads. Making necessary updates or changes to your website to ensure it is accessible to all will surely open up the opportunity for more people to interact with your site, its content, and your business. If almost one-quarter of the population cannot easily consume content on most business websites, this type of change would open your business up to a broader audience and provide these users with positive interaction with your business.
#6 It's Easier Than You Think
Ensuring your website is accessible is no longer a complicated, timely, or cost-prohibitive endeavor. Various tools are available to install and provide quick and easy ways to improve user experience with website engagement. The bonus is that these tools are affordable!
Not only is web accessibility compliance a requirement by law (set by ADA Title III), but website accessibility allows more people to be able to interact and engage with your website and benefits individuals, businesses, and society. What's stopping you? Use our audit tool below and get an immediate answer to whether your site is compliant with web accessibility legislation.