Digital Accessibility

Why the Private Sector Needs to Plan for Digital Accessibility

Published: April 7, 2022

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    Inaccessible digital technology creates difficulties for people who are disabled. Raised awareness of the situation leads to a growing demand for digital accessibility regulation that makes sites more accessible.

    Europe required all public sector sites to conform to standardized access requirements by September 23, 2020. The goal was to make essential services, information, and public accommodations accessible to everyone.

    How does that affect the private sector sites in Europe and elsewhere? There are reasons why now is the ideal time to begin planning for website accessibility. It is crucial to know what web accessibility is and know why it matters.

    Web Accessibility

    Web accessibility is a means of designing technologies, tools, and sites of digital inclusion, so that anyone, including people with disabilities, is able to use them easily. The types of disabilities considered when designing accessible digital media and websites include

    • Cognitive limitations
    • Hearing loss and deafness
    • Limited movement
    • Low vision or blindness
    • Neurological limitations
    • Speech difficulties

    To build accessible websites, there is a range of development practices and designs that help people with disabilities navigate a website. One example is ensuring adequate color contrast between the background and text colors on a website. It makes reading the text easier for those with low vision.
    Web Accessibility by ADA Site Compliance

    Why Accessibility Matters

    In Europe, 25 percent of people living with long-term limitations or a disability. In the United States, there are more than 56 million people who live with a disability. Digital technology makes some activities easier for those with disabilities, but many services, products, and information move online without considering website accessibility features.

    Inaccessible and poorly designed technology make it hard for people with disabilities to participate on a daily basis. Another group that struggles with digital technologies is elderly consumers. Lack of adequate contrast, complicated online forms, and poorly organized checkout make a website unusable.

    For people living with disabilities and the elderly, access to online services, such as administrative offices, police stations, and health centers is endangered by inadequate digital accessibility issues.

    A cluttered website with missing metadata descriptions and unclear text creates unnecessary, avoidable obstacles even if there are assistive technologies such as screen reading software that reads content aloud to those who are visually impaired. It threatens the rights of the disabled and has consequences for a business.

    Reasons to Make Accessible Websites

    The benefits of designing and building accessible websites include:

    • Widening the reach of your audience
    • Getting ahead of increasing regulations
    • Avoiding the risk of lawsuits
    • Building brand loyalty

    Boosting user innovation and experience

    There are more than a billion people who live with disabilities in the world who have a spending power that exceeds six trillion dollars. Building a digital inclusion, accessible website widens your audience and increases potential customers.

    The number of consumers who have buying power but experience a decline in cognitive function is likely to increase as baby boomers reach the age of 60. The decline includes difficulty in decision-making and diminished working memory. Businesses need to be prepared to accommodate the group with websites that prioritize uncluttered, clean text pages as well as simple ordering and checkout flow on e-commerce sites.

    Getting Ahead of Increasing Regulations

    There are countries that have taken steps to regulate and enforce web accessibility, mostly within public accommodations. More countries are starting to apply requirements on private sector websites of organizations and businesses.

    The European Union has a goal of making it easier to trade accessible services and products, such as mobile devices, computers, ATMs, and ticketing machines between member states by harmonizing the regulations and laws of these products.

    Canada has an Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that requires public and private sector organizations or non-profit organizations that have over 50 employees to have an accessible website.

    Norway took the regulations further by requiring all self-service machines, mobile applications, and websites to comply with universal design practices. The country has appointed the Norwegian Digitalization Agency to carry out random checks in its enforcement efforts.

    Further global community regulations are expected, as policies enmesh in the digital age. The United States has no national-level legislation on website accessibility. The trend toward deregulation makes equal access for those with disabilities a confusing field.

    Most conversations focus on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III. Businesses must be aware that they are responsible for providing adequate services for those who are disabled users.

    Many governmental policies refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as the standard for accessibility issues. Instead of waiting for the government to enforce deadlines, get a head start and become familiar with WCAG.

    Avoiding the Risks of Lawsuits

    The United States has experienced an increase in the number of website accessibility lawsuits that have been filed in state and federal courts. A well-known case in the industry is a lawsuit against Domino’s Pizza.

    A blind man, by the name of Guillermo Robles, filed a lawsuit when he could not order a pizza through the company’s website, despite having screen reading software. Robles claimed Domino’s did not provide accessible online services equivalent to the service a sighted person receives.

    As such, his rights were violated according to Title III regulations of the American Disabilities Act. Title III prohibits discrimination based on disability in public accommodation places, such as movie theaters and restaurants.

    The takeaway is businesses must treat the issue of web access as a legal risk rather than an option. The Domino’s Pizza case demonstrates accessibility laws and the way they are interpreted do not always align. Being attuned to the needs of customers and addressing common themes improve the chances of legal scrutiny avoidance.

    Building Brand Loyalty

    Today’s audience consists of conscientious consumers who support commercial businesses aligned with their political, environmental, and social issues values. It appears that people from the ages of 21 to 27 shop at retailers demonstrating a commitment to diversity in regard to ethnicity, gender, age, and disability inclusion.

    Older people, aged 28 to 37, seem to prefer one brand over another if the brand demonstrates diversity and inclusion in its promotions. Companies respond by formulating socially responsible messaging highlighting topics, such as diversity and sustainability.

    People also look for authentic commitment from the brands they buy. Incorporate inclusive values into your services, products, and brand. Instilling website accessibility and design practices into the process shows a commitment to the creation of an inclusive user experience.

    Without doing so, you risk customer loyalty. Customers needing accessible websites choose other brands over yours. Disabled customers have proven to be loyal customers when they earn your trust.

    Boosting Users’ Innovation and Experience

    Usability is at the center of accessibility space design. There is a shift to user-centered design focusing on understanding the behaviors and access needs of users to build products that create positive user experiences. Designing a website with accessibility in mind elevates the site’s usability.

    It can lead to innovative solutions not otherwise realized. Technology used today, such as autocorrect, voice control, and other features began as features designed for those with disabilities to use computers more easily.

    There is a trickle-down effect when solving the accessibility issues of today leads to future technology breakthroughs that benefit everyone. Ease of use and accessibility go hand in hand. Technology creators are urged to include accessibility standards when designing a product.

    Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

    Things to check for when assessing a site for accessibility standards include:

    • Accessible captioned video, audio, and images
    • Accessible documents
    • Accessible links and link text
    • Clear, simple text
    • No flashing lights or distracting animation
    • Proper page structure
    • Sufficient color contrast ratio
    • Useful page titles

    The volume of web accessibility lawsuits and settlement agreements exposes common themes that provide invaluable insight for online businesses to address website access ability and minimize legal risk.

    Consult with accessibility experts at ADA Site Compliance to evaluate your website against WCAG standards to determine the necessary remediation to address barriers and test the site using assistive technology like screen readers to ensure the barriers are remediated.

    Publish an Accessibility Statement, reviewed by an attorney, on the site and work to develop a training program, procedures, and policies that improve usability. Audit site accessibility on a regular basis.

    Operationalize access with your company culture, and prioritize a top-down, multi-department approach throughout the company to build access. The goal is to improve usability for those who are disabled. A holistic digital accessibility approach that brings decision-makers and stakeholders together is the best means of operationalizing access. It is a long-term commitment.

    Digital Accessibility

    World Wide Web Consortium on Digital Accessibility

    The web is designed to work for everyone regardless of their ability, location, language, or software. When it meets the goal, it provides access to people with a diverse range of cognitive abilities, sight, movement, and hearing.

    When the web removes the digital divide barriers to interaction and communications technology that people face, the impact of disability changes radically. Badly designed digital tools, technologies, and applications on commercial websites create barriers that exclude people from web use.

    Why Is Access Important for Business

    The web must provide equal access and opportunity to those with diverse abilities. Accessibility is a social responsibility that includes the disabled and others, such as people in developing countries, rural areas, and older people.

    Accessibility overlaps with best practices like search engine optimization, design for older users, multi-modal interaction, device independence, and mobile applications. The benefits include increased audience reach, reduced maintenance costs, and better search results.

    Items that increase accessibility are

    • Alternate text for images
    • Keyboard input
    • Transcripts for audio

    When alt text is provided, information is available to those who are blind and to technology, such as search engines that cannot see images. Disabled individuals can use assistive technology when all functionality is available through a keyboard. Text transcripts make audio files available to people who cannot hear.

    Get a FREE SITE SCAN today for your website and let us here at ADA Site Compliance help your online presence become fully accessible and ADA-compliant with proper manual auditing and correction.

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