Why You Can’t Ignore The New Federal Accessibility Standards For The Web
Website accessibility is a crucial website design element, and its absence prevents you from reaching a significant portion of your market. If you didn’t design an accessible website because you think your product won’t appeal to people with disabilities, think again.
People with disabilities want your products
Disabilities vary by degree. For example, say you sell physical books. People with impaired vision buy books all the time for friends and family. Many buy books for themselves and read them using magnification devices. If you sell books, your market will undoubtedly include some people interested in your subject matter who also happen to have a visual impairment.
Ignoring a portion of your market is a losing strategy. Not making your site accessible is comparable to blocking people who visit your site from a Windows device, or redirecting iPhone users back to Google. To increase the power and strength of your website as a digital asset, it must be accessible to people with disabilities.
Accessible websites prevent lawsuits
The biggest reason to have an accessible website is to avoid lawsuits. In 2017, there were more than 814 website accessibility lawsuits filed in the United States. You can get sued even if no law exists requiring your site to be accessible. Lawsuits are time-consuming, financially draining, and many businesses end up settling out of court to maintain their brand reputation.
Some businesses are legally required to have accessible sites
As of January 2018, all video and audio files created by public entities must have captions or transcriptions available. “It’s outlined under Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act,” says officials with Screencast-O-Matic, a video editing platform which enables captioning, “which includes just about every public entity including government offices, hotels religious organizations and schools. Under these Acts, the rules apply across all aspects of learning including online information and programming services.”
Currently, only government websites are required to implement federally-mandated accessibility requirements, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. If you’re an online education platform, check with your lawyer to see where you stand.
Increasing website accessibility is a customer acquisition strategy
2012 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed 56.7 million Americans have a disability, and 38.3 million have a severe disability. Severe disabilities can impact a person’s ability to access a website’s content, including cloud-based applications and downloadable documents. According to the same study, 7.6 million people have a hearing impairment, and 8.1 million have a vision impairment. These combined 15.7 million people might rely on transcripts, captions, and screen readers while using the internet.
Without an accessible website, you’re potentially losing millions of customers. For example, say you sell children’s toys. There’s a large market for toys, and that market certainly includes people with disabilities. You might be satisfied with your current sales, but making your website accessible to more customers will increase your potential for revenue.
An accessible website might decrease your bounce rate
Ever wonder why your bounce rate is high? Perhaps, unbeknownst to you, a portion of your market is disabled and can’t access your website. It’s not your fault for not knowing. The data you have access to is usually processed and categorized by your host or platform. Condensed statistics won’t tell you how many visitors bounced after attempting to use a screen reader to access your website.
Transforming your site into an accessible web experience will help you capture visitors using tools like screen readers.
Accessible websites include people who are largely excluded
If getting more sales isn’t enough to convince you to transform your site into an accessible experience, consider the opportunity you have to make a difference for people.
Internet technology has the potential to benefit everyone, but the impact of non-accessible websites can be isolating for people with disabilities. According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. However, when websites, applications, technologies, or tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.”
Just getting through the day can be a time-consuming challenge for people with disabilities. For instance, business owners don’t intentionally make their doors hard to open or their counters too tall, but many buildings were built before ADA regulations. Navigating a world not made for them is a major source of pain for disabled people.
Your website is an opportunity to give disabled people a barrier-free experience and build a strong relationship of trust at the same time.
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