ADA compliance has been a key consideration for brick and mortar stores since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. A disability should not keep a potential customer from being able to access a store.
Unfortunately, a similar mindset has been slower to take hold in the digital world. Many people experience disabilities that limit their ability to use the internet. If you don’t take steps to make your website “accessible,” you won’t adequately serve your customers and will likely miss out on sales and conversions.
Why Web Accessibility is More Important Than Ever
As the internet becomes increasingly engrained in everyday life, it becomes more important that everyone is able to access its resources. While the original ADA didn’t directly account for the internet, the legal system is taking an increasingly broad view of how the law applies to websites.
For example, the Supreme Court recently rejected an appeal from Domino’s after the pizza giant was successfully sued by a blind man who was unable to order food using the company’s app or website. The basis of the customer’s lawsuit was that since the digital platforms had no provisions in place to help a blind individual place an order, it was in violation of the protections intended by the ADA.
Other companies have been hit with similar lawsuits, with compelling arguments that in today’s society, a website is essentially a “place of public accommodation.” Access barriers (even unintentional ones) deny equal access to disabled individuals.
Web accessibility isn’t just a good move from an ethical standpoint. It could help protect your company’s reputation and bottom line. In the United Kingdom alone, studies estimate that websites that presented access barriers to disabled individuals lost £17.1 billion (roughly $22 billion) from disabled users abandoning the site.
Creating an Accessible Website
So how can you ensure that your website is truly accessible so you won’t be vulnerable to lost revenue or a lawsuit? It is important to remember that accessibility issues can stem from a wide range of disabilities.
Blind individuals rely on a screen reader, which verbalizes written website content. Someone who is deaf will require closed captioning for video or audio content. An individual with a mobility impairment may not be able to use a computer mouse, or could depend on special equipment to use a computer.
Because of this, your website accessibility initiatives should cover a wide range of access limitations. Your best resource is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative. These guidelines address everything you need to do to make content perceivable, operable, and understandable for people of all ability levels.
Many of these updates are common sense. For example, adding alt text allows a blind site visitor to understand the purpose of a photo on your site — but well-written, keyword-rich text also provides a SEO boost. Keyboard only navigation allows non-mouse users to access different pages. Making accessibility a priority will strengthen your website and create a better user experience for everyone.
Providing Fair Access
Taking steps to enhance website accessibility is ultimately a win-win for everyone involved. All potential customers will be able to use your content or make a purchase off your website without facing severe usability issues. As a result, you will enjoy better business results and build a stronger relationship with your customers.