Website accessibility is not just for large national retailers and federal agencies, it is an important issue that affects every type of business of every size. In other words, any website that is not accessible to the visually impaired can face litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act which was signed by George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. Back then, the web wasn’t even a fraction of what it is today. The US government has been slow to update the ADA regarding websites and has not defined the specific rules in which a website should adhere to become compliant. And that is partially the reason for the rise in accessibility lawsuits. The web development community itself has adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which are detailed instructions on how to make a website accessible.
Let’s take a step back from potential litigation to talk about the loss of potential revenue your company faces by not having a website that is accessible. Worldwide there are 285 million people living with visual impairment. With a world population living longer, the number of people who have trouble accessing your company’s website adds up to a staggering amount of missed revenue. The visually impaired community needs all the goods and services that sighted people need and in 2020, more and more people turn to a brand’s website and social media to get the information they need before making a purchase.
What can you do today to start making your website accessible today? You can start by adding an accessibility statement to your website acknowledging that you are working to make your website accessible according to the ADA.
Here is an example of a website accessibility statement:
Our company is committed to making our website as accessible as possible to people with special needs, including those with visual, hearing, cognitive and motor impairments. We’re constantly working towards improving the accessibility of our website to ensure we provide equal access to all of our users. Should you have difficulty accessing the content on our website, please reach out to us.
Next, check your own website for compliance with the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool here at https://wave.webaim.org/.
Here is an example result:
This tool will list the errors and alerts flagged on the website that must be addressed for compliance. Because you have a business to run, you may not have the expertise to address all of the errors that the WAVE tool discovers.
Because there are many types of visual impairment from fully blind to farsighted, more than one area of a website must be compliant. At the least, users of the website must be able to change the look of the site to make it more readable. And if the website is old, it may not be built with the responsive code needed to allow users to make these visual changes to suit their accessibility needs.
At the least, being able to resize type many times larger to increase readability, must be the first step to website usability. Many web browsers have this capability built-in, but that doesn’t mean every website will adapt to type size adjustments. Next, color contrasts, or the colors of text and the colors of the backgrounds that text appears on must meet certain WCAG guidelines for readability. There are some simple widgets that can be installed on a website that will add a flyout menu to allow users to change font size, colors, remove images, and more. One popular widget is the UserWay menu.
However, and this is very important, adding one of these front-end widgets is a great first step to making a website ADA compliant, but these only change the front-end look of your site. They do not make it fully accessible, especially to blind users. And partially accessible is not ADA accessible.
There is no automatic tool that re-programs the code on a website to make it fully compliant, allowing site content to be spoken aloud by assistive technologies such as the JAWS screen reader. This is where a professional developer like Marketing Tech may be needed. Marketing Tech will evaluate your website and create a plan to make it and keep it accessible, opening up a market of millions of people that could need what your business provides.
For more information and a free website evaluation contact us today.