Just about every company eventually needs to build a website. While discussing design elements, content, and layout, there is one question that is often forgotten: “Does my website successfully meet the needs of individuals with disabilities?” People tend to forget this question because they simply lack awareness.
The following laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
Unfortunately, many companies only think about these laws when it comes time to provide customers with certain services or products. Companies must learn to adhere to digital accessibility laws as they seek larger digital footprints.
Digital accessibility laws remove accessibility barriers that many people with disabilities face. They are also meant to make digital environments more inclusive for all people. As a bonus, websites that remove accessibility barriers tend to be easier for all people to use.
In addition to following digital accessibility laws, organizations should be sure to avoid succumbing to the following seven common misconceptions that surround web accessibility standards:
1. Web barriers are rarely considered when companies think about accessibility.
The term “accessibility” primarily referred to the physical aspects of a building before the United States Government made it clear that ADA Title III applies to publicly accessible information communication technologies (ICT). Additionally, Section 508 requires all government entities and organizations that receive federal government funding design digital platforms with equal access for all persons with disabilities.
Companies carefully consider public accommodation as they create their businesses, develop services, and offer products for sale. Some examples of physical accessibility include:
- Ramps at the front doors
- Offering printer materials
- Using Braille on signage
- Lowered elevator buttons
- Requiring company policies for service animals
However, the concept of accessibility needed to change in the digital age. Therefore, companies must now follow digital accessibility laws.
In 2017, there were 814 digital accessibility lawsuits in the U.S. In 2018, the number of lawsuits jumped to 2,258. The number of lawsuits continued to rise throughout 2019. The reason that the number of web accessibility lawsuits continues to rise is that companies fail to understand how web barriers are as debilitating as an unfair step in front of an office door.¹
2. Not considering the importance of online participation.
According to The Digital 2019 Report by We Are Social and HootSuite, the average adult will spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day.² This figure implies people spend 27 percent of the year spent browsing the Internet.
Imagine what your life would be like if you are suddenly unable to go online. Your normal online activities are suddenly inaccessible to you. This hypothetical nightmare is all too real to individuals with disabilities who face digital barriers.
Fortunately, digital accessibility laws force companies to remove the barriers and help people with disabilities use the Internet.
3. The number of people with disabilities that affect their Internet use isn’t properly considered.
An estimated 15 percent of the world’s population lives with a disability. The type of disabilities can impact a wide range of areas, including mobility, vision, hearing, speech, cognitive, dexterity, and memory. There are many types of digital barriers that make it impossible for individuals with certain disabilities to properly use websites.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 help companies understand the technical requirements needed to remove barriers for online accessibility. The third version of WCAG, version 2.1 came out in June 2018 and includes 17 additional criteria for inclusion success. The new criteria focus on helping companies remove digital barriers from mobile technologies.
This change in focus especially important because mobile devices account for around 40 percent of all internet traffic.³
4. The barrier impact is misunderstood.
Far too many companies falsely assume that digital barriers don’t make a big difference. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many websites have “time limit” features that do not take into account certain mental, dexterity, or memory disabilities. People with certain disabilities might not be able to complete the necessary actions before the “time limit” feature ends their session.
Companies follow WCAG 2.1 best practices and adhere to digital accessibility requirements easily avoid this situation. In this case, the fix can be as simple as changing one line of code to increase the amount of time a user has to complete a form.
5. Websites are not compatible with assistive technology.
Many people that have disabilities use assistive technology (AT) to go online. There are several types of assistive technologies available for use, including:
- Screen readers to assist individuals with vision disabilities.
- Screen magnification tools to assist people with vision disabilities.
- Keyboard or mouse replacement tools like head pointers, motion tracking, and single switch entry devices that assist people with dexterity disabilities.
- Speech input software to assist people who have difficulty typing.
Sadly, the majority of websites are not compatible with all different types of assistive technologies. For example, a screen reader can only describe images on a page if the web developer has included text descriptions via alternative text (alt-text) tags. Similarly, sip-and-puff technology only works if the web developer has included keyboard commands within the page navigation.
6. Web accessibility benefits aren’t considered.
Did you know that there are several benefits to following digital accessibility laws? These benefits are for both online visitors, customers with disabilities, and your own company. The features that can make digital content accessible to individuals with disabilities are also SEO best practices.
For example, larger touch targets, predictable layout, and captioned videos can bolster SEO rankings and increase conversions. As a general rule, accessible web content is more effective because it is better organized, properly labeled, and easier to find via online searches.
In short, accessible web content delivers a higher ROI.
7. Companies fail to realize that web accessibility is achievable.
According to the most recent Screen Reader User Survey, only 40 percent of respondents believe web content is becoming more accessible year-over-year.4 Further on accessibility, 40 percent believe that web content accessibility remains the same and 20 percent think that it has become worse.
To put the latter statistics into perspective, the same survey revealed that 85 percent of respondents felt that more accessible websites would have a greater impact than simply using better assistive technology.
Fortunately, the call for more accessible websites is made possible with the help of eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s innovative solution.
Discover An Innovative Solution To Following Digital Accessibility Laws
eSSENTIAL Accessibility is proud to offer an innovative solution that helps companies effectively follow WCAG. Our digital accessibility solution encourages companies to maintain compliance with the latest accessibility standards and regulations.
Between conducting web compliance evaluations, offering remediation services with assistive technology, and creating transformative experiences for individuals with disabilities, eSSENTIAL Accessibility is ready to help your company cater to the needs of all people, including those with disabilities. Learn more about our innovative solution by requesting a demo today.
- OVER 2250 WEB ACCESSIBILITY LAWSUITS FILED IN 2018. COULD THEY TRIPLE IN 2019? Bureau of Internet Accessibility, February 28. 2019
- Digital in 2019 We are Social and HootSuite, January 2019
- Percentage of mobile device website traffic in the United States from 1st quarter 2015 to 1st quarter 2019 Statista, July 2019
- Screen Reader User Survey #7 Results WebAIM, 2017
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.