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Is your website accessible? If you said some variation of “no,” “I don’t know,” or “what?” then your business could be at risk.
According to W3, Web accessibility encompasses visual, auditory, cognitive, physical and speech-related disabilities and “means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them to:
A website is accessible if it meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
Technology is everywhere and a large portion of our lives is spent online. More than 25 percent of adults in the U.S. and over a billion people around the globe have a disability. For those who do, browsing the web can be an entirely different experience than it is for those who don’t.
For example, a blind individual may rely on a screen reader to speak the text, button labels, menu items, etc. out loud. A well-designed, accessible website can be easily navigated with a screen reader, but visiting a website that isn’t accessible results in a barrage of words and labels that are far more overwhelming than helpful, leaving users frustrated.
Someone with a vision impairment may feel the same if they are unable to read the text on a page because of the color or font choice, and many websites aren’t optimized for keyboard navigation, which unfortunately renders them nearly unusable by someone with a motor impairment that relies on a keyboard to get around.
In addition to offering access to all, having a website that meets WCAG 2.0 criteria can also provide an improved user experience to those without disabilities and improve SEO rankings.
Ensuring your website is accessible is the right thing to do, but beyond that, your company has a legal obligation. Web accessibility was not part of the initial policies set forth Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, however, in 2021, the Department of Justice named it an enforcement priority.
Websites that do not meet accessibility standards could face a civil penalty for violating Title III of the ADA. The first violation carries a $75,000 price tag and additional violations are capped at $150,000
Additionally, lawsuits are on the rise against businesses with sites that allegedly fail to meet WCAG 2.0 requirements. Accessibility’s annual Website Accessibility Lawsuit analysis determined that there were 2,352 lawsuits filed in the Federal and California State court systems, up 14.3 percent from 2020.
The most targeted industries of 2021 were:
However, lawsuits have not been limited to those industries. There are no signs of filing slowing down. In fact, Accessibility reports that there were 170 filed in January of 2022.
There are multiple tools out there that help make (and keep) your website accessible, but our favorite is accessiBe. We began using it last year and highly recommend it for multiple reasons.
Getting started with accessiBe is easy and requires little technical knowledge. Unlike 3rd party overlay options that rarely offer complete compliance, accessiBe will automatically begin to audit your site and make necessary changes to ensure it meets accessibility guidelines without altering the actual appearance of your site. It will also continuously monitor your site for compliance issues.
After installing it on your site, you will see a widget that appears on your site instantly. This widget allows users to make adjustments to your website, including changing the font or text size, adjusting the colors to make it more readable, disabling flashing elements that could trigger seasons and numerous other changes that will ensure a positive browsing experience.
The company offers a 7-day free trial and offers both annual and month-to-month plans to fit various budgets. At $490/yr for the standard plan, the cost of accessiBe is roughly 0.6 percent of the $75,000 fine you could face if you are not compliant. If your company were to face litigation because of non-compliance, the value of accessiBe becomes even more clear.
Regardless what how your website becomes accessible, it is important that it does. Not only to mitigate risk but to ensure your company is offering a positive user experience to all.
If you need more information about web accessibility, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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