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There’s no disputing that digital technologies have enriched our lives. Thanks to the internet, computers, and mobile devices, everyday tasks have become much more convenient and straightforward. Whether ordering a product from an eCommerce merchant or communicating with a loved one on the other side of the planet, modern innovation has opened up a world of new possibilities. Still, unfortunately, not everybody can benefit from it.
Business owners continually fail to make adequate provisions for impaired users and neglect the importance of web accessibility. Regrettably, people with disabilities, estimated to number over one billion, are often unable to access websites and digital content successfully. Not only is this a problem for the end-user, but it could come back to haunt the business itself.
Just as owners of physical stores and public buildings are expected to make provisions for disabled people through disability ramps, handrails, toilets, and braille, owners of digital content are expected to do the same for their disabled users.
Title III of the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) clearly states that businesses of all types have to make it possible for customers with disabilities to access their services, including those that operate online. While it took a while for online businesses to be held accountable for ADA violations, the precedent has now been set, and we are beginning to witness an exponential increase of lawsuits year-on-year. Thus, striving for ADA compliance has become a top concern for business leaders, regardless of industry or the size of their operations.
Website accessibility is scored on four main factors defined and outlined in WCAG 2.1. These principles assess how perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust each website is. You are technically breaking the law if your site has significant failures in any area. On that same note, let’s look at some main advantages of having an accessible website.
As we have just alluded to, inaccessible sites are at risk of facing web accessibility lawsuits. Over the past few years, a growing number of digital accessibility cases have been reported across the country. While the eCommerce industry was the most heavily sued, the data clearly shows that no industry is safe from plaintiff law firms. On top of this, the size of your company does not seem to matter much either. This is likely due to the larger companies already realizing the threat of litigation before hiring dedicated teams to bring their websites up to compliance.
When you build an accessible website, you are also better positioned to rank higher on the SERPs. Since these are all key performance indicators that search engines such as Google look at, having simple navigation, readable text, and quick load times can help you rank better and improve your SEO performance. After all, the primary purpose of SEO is to ensure that your target audience can quickly discover and interact with your website’s content.
People buy from brands. That has been well established at this point. One often overlooked aspect of branding is focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues. Mostly, companies look at DEI requirements as bureaucratic obligations that must be met, such as hiring quotas from ethnically diverse backgrounds. However, demonstrating your concern for disabled users and implementing measures to ensure an equitable experience for all individuals, regardless of disability, is a great way to boost public opinion of your business, which can benefit in a variety of ways.
While accessible websites do a great job facilitating screen readers and keyboard navigation, they also substantially improve the entire user experience by simplifying navigation, improving color contrast, and ensuring all written material is legible and understandable. Therefore, every user who visits your website will benefit from improved accessibility. In turn, this could lead to a higher user retention rate and may even boost sales.
Many people could be exempted from your website (and its products) if you fail to make adequate provisions. As mentioned, over one billion individuals live with some disability. For example, if somebody is blind, they may be unable to interact with your website unless you have taken the time to set up captions and alt text that is compatible with screen readers. Similarly, not all users can operate a mouse. In these instances, they may use keyboard navigation as their default strategy for maneuvering around a website. Unless you ensure that this is possible, it is unlikely they will be able to operate your website with any substantial degree of effectiveness.
With the number of web accessibility lawsuits rising each year, companies that fail to make provisions and bring their websites up to speed with the WCAG 2.1 risk being taken to court by plaintiff law firms. That said, there are far more benefits to improving web accessibility than merely avoiding a trip to the courtroom. A more accessible site will help you to connect with a broader range of users, offer them a better experience, and you may even be able to improve your rankings on the SERPs. Case in point, if you aren’t already striving to improve the accessibility of your website, then now is a perfect time to start.