ADA Accessibility and the Benefits to Your Business
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ADA Accessibility and the Benefits to Your Business

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services. Part of this law requires websites be accessible to people with disabilities too. It only makes sense, seeing as so much of what we used to do in person has moved online, from shopping to groceries to buying movie tickets.

Web accessibility is an important business and legal issue. It’s essential for companies with an online presence to understand the requirement (and benefits) of being accessible. This post aims to answer common questions about web accessibility and serve as a guide for next steps.

What is Web Accessibility?

According to W3C, the organization that has set the standard for web accessibility, the term “means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can: perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute to the web.

What Makes a Site Accessible vs. Inaccessible?

Web accessibility covers a wide range of web aspects, from design to how forms are set up. Some barriers to accessibility include:

  • Poor color contrast – People with limited vision or color blindness cannot read text if there is not enough contrast between the text and background.
  • Use of color alone to give information. People who are color-blind may not have access to information when that information is conveyed using only color cues.
  • Lack of text alternatives (“alt text”) on images. People who are visually impaired likely cannot understand the content and purpose of images, such as pictures, illustrations, and charts without the help of assistive technology, like screen readers. Alt text is a type of coding that is read aloud to users by screen reader software and it is indexed by search engines.
  • No captions on videos – People with hearing disabilities may not be able to understand information communicated in a video if the video does not have captions.
  • Inaccessible online forms. People with disabilities may not be able to fill out, understand, and accurately submit forms without things like labels or clear instructions.

It’s important to remember that web accessibility must meet the needs of people with a wide range of disabilities, including:

  • Visual impairments: This includes different visual impairment, such as individuals who have low vision or color blindness. Web accessibility ensures that websites can be navigated and understood using screen readers, magnifiers, or alternative color schemes.
  • Hearing impairments: Web accessibility addresses the needs of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. It includes providing captions, transcripts, and sign language interpretations for multimedia content.
  • Motor impairments: Individuals with motor disabilities face challenges in using a mouse or keyboard. Web accessibility provides alternatives such as keyboard navigation, voice recognition, and switch access to ensure they can interact with websites effectively.
  • Cognitive impairments: People with cognitive disabilities may have difficulties with reading, comprehension, or memory. Web accessibility focuses on clear and concise content, logical organization, and easy navigation to accommodate these users.
  • Neurological conditions: Conditions like epilepsy or photosensitivity can be triggered by certain visual stimuli. Web accessibility ensures that websites avoid causing harm or discomfort to individuals with such conditions.

For more information about what makes a site accessible vs inaccessible, go to the government’s official ADA site.

What is ADA Compliance?

Compliance means that your information and communication technology (ICT) adheres to the standards set under government policies and web accessibility guidelines. If you do business only in the United States, that would mean ADA compliance. You can achieve ADA compliance by following the WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Here are some other ICT accessibility regulations and when you would need to adhere to them:

  • Section 508: This section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all government agencies, organizations that receive federal funding and companies that contract with the federal government maintain accessible products and services.
  • AODA: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires digital accessibility in a wide range of areas, including ICT.
  • EN 301549: This requires all public sector websites be accessible and all commercial websites are accessible by 2025.
  • IS 5568: The accessibility standard for public entities and companies doing business in Israel.

All of these regulations either follow the WCAG 2.1 guidelines or have almost identical guidelines.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

It’s the law. Not making your site accessible can put you at risk of a lawsuit. Forbes reported that web accessibility lawsuits increased exponentially in 2023, These are not all large companies either. Roughly three-quarters of companies sued for inaccessible websites had annual revenues under $25 million.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 15-20% of Americans have some form of disability. Our aging population also means more people with hearing and vision impairment are searching the web. When a site is not accessible, it limits your ability as a company to reach these people.

What Are the Benefits of Investing in Digital Accessibility?

Here are some of the benefits your company will see when making your site accessible:

  • More website traffic and engagement – When people with disabilities can easily read and navigate your website, it will keep them on the page longer. This lowers your bounce rate and increases the chances they will click on a link or fill out a form.
  • Increased revenue – Making a website more accessible to people with disabilities also makes it more likely someone will buy from you. Even if the competition has a better product or price, you get a competitive advantage if people can easily shop your site (and not the competition).
  • Helps your SEO – Boosting your web pages in search results is an ongoing effort. According to SEMRush, a leading SEO platform, adopting accessibility standards increased organic traffic for roughly 75% of companies surveyed.
  • Better user experience – Some web features that make a site inaccessible, when fixed, are an improvement for everyone. Larger font sizes, easy-to-use forms and other UX improvements are all part of web accessibility.
  • Small business tax credit – To help small companies get into compliance, the federal government is offering a tax credit for expenditures on accessibility tools. This includes businesses that generated $1 million or less in revenues the previous year or employ fewer than 30 employees. You can read here about how the tax credit works.

How to Become ADA Compliant?

There are two steps to gaining accessibility. First is auditing and updating your current site. This includes ensuring videos have captions, images have alt text and screen readers can easily read the text on your page in a sensical way.

The second step is ongoing maintenance. Because your company is adding new web pages all the time in the form of blog posts, landing pages and more, your site should undergo regular accessibility reviews to address any issues. It’s important to remember, the longer between accessibility checks, the more costly remediation will be, as the audits are likely to find more problems in an annual audit vs a monthly audit.

There are a number of companies, like Accessibe, that provide web accessibility compliance services and can partner with your web developer to complete this process.

Need Help With Accessibility?

Talk to Founder Carrie Mayo about the ADA requirements and how to become compliant.

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