I’m sorry to tell you, but there’s a chance that one of your favorite websites cannot be enjoyed by everyone, namely those with disabilities.
Honestly, there’s a very good chance.
Each day, websites fail web content accessibility guidelines, because they are unintelligible to those with vision, hearing, and other disabilities, due to shortcomings in the websites’ design and development.
This can demonstrate poor business practices and even a potential lawsuit when framed against guidance on web accessibility set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Web Accessibility Compliance: A Today Problem
More and more, signs show that websites today are simply not as accessible to those with disabilities as we would all hope. And this is a problem, considering the fundamental basis for the internet is free and widespread access to communication.
Fact 1: 97% of websites do not meet full accessibility.
This is according to a 2020 accessibility study of one million websites.
Fact 2: “…federal courts across the country have been flooded with well over 8,000 digital accessibility lawsuits filed or removed between 2017 and 2020.”
Per American Bar Association research.
One glimpse at this landscape and you can see those with disabilities are being denied equal opportunities to a basic human right of communications access, not to mention being somewhat blocked from the benefits of your goods and services.
What is Website Accessibility?
Website accessibility means that people with disabilities deserve equal and fair access to the goods, services, programs, and activities that businesses – and state and local governments – make available to the public.
The ADA has evolved to keep pace with the changing technologies of society and included websites in its authority beginning in 1996. Ever since, website accessibility is a growing priority for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Accessibility applies to those with both permanent and temporary disabilities, including:
- Blindness and low vision
- Learning and cognitive disabilities
- Deafness and hearing loss
- Speech disabilities
- Physical disabilities
Why is Accessibility Important?
To paraphrase the ADA: an inaccessible website can exclude disabled individuals just as much as a staircase at the entrance of a physical location. It’s unfair discrimination.
The internet is designed to be the great equalizer, delivering information to those who otherwise would be challenged to reach it due to physical, visual, geographical, audible, and other challenges.
Technology has championed this cause, both in the foundational nature of operating systems, browsers, and presentation technology; and through screen readers and other assistive technology that enable people with disabilities to accomplish tasks.
Unfortunately, not all websites feature current technology that follows the guidelines that enable accessibility.
What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
As determined by the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, there are nearly 100 requirements to follow. Obviously, that’s too many to list so here, but let’s look at five common accessibility concerns for your website:
- Sufficient color contrast: People with impaired vision require sufficient color contrast ratios between the text and background to read text and identify navigational elements such as buttons.
- Text alternatives on images: Also called “Alt-text,” descriptive text within the code must accompany all pictures, illustrations, and other image elements to aid comprehension by visually impaired users.
- Accessible online forms: Those with disabilities require clear instructions, labels, and other indicators to properly fill-out and submit forms.
- Mouse-free navigation: People with disabilities who cannot use a mouse or trackpad will not be able to access web content if they cannot navigate a website using a keyboard.
- Video captions: Users with impaired hearing require text captions to understand video content.
How to Implement Website Accessibility and Prevent an ADA Lawsuit?
It’s not difficult for you to see the case for ensuring website accessibility for those with disabilities. But the challenge lies in what steps you can take today to ensure your website is fully accessible.
Here are some beginning steps for implementing website content accessibility:
Run an accessibility tool
There are multiple websites and plug-ins available on the market you can run to validate your existing website content (some are free to use). These include WAVE, Contrast Checker, Google Lighthouse, and Axe, to name a few. Please keep in mind that no tool can completely replace the effectiveness of an accessibility expert.
If your business is active in producing content for the web, it’s quite valuable to have a current staff member get ADA certified through one of the many ADA training programs available. It will assist your business in gaining compliance and stay current with evolving ADA guidelines.
Incorporate accessibility design reviews
It’s vital that accessibility review processes factor into all new content produced, the same way proofreading does. Keep in mind that accessibility includes many different aspects of design, including design elements, text, video, page structure, navigation, forms, links, buttons, and icons.
Hire an accessibility expert
Working with an accessibility expert is a smart investment. Let someone else worry about training and learning the intricate guidelines while you focus on your business. Whether it’s a one-time deal or an ongoing relationship, an agency like us at Liquid can keep you in compliance and assist you with any of the above steps.
Of course, any issues concerning the legal protection of your business should always be in consultation with appropriate legal counsel.
Wrapping It Up
Website content accessibility is the new normal, and an issue facing all businesses with an online presence. There is a tremendous opportunity to better serve the disabled community, and we’re seeing more and more legal action taken against those not making the effort.
Begin today by examining your existing content and make steps to gain the expertise needed to keep moving forward with ADA guidelines.