Why We Need Web Accessibility Laws: 7 Common Misconceptions of Digital Accessibility

lawyer looking over web accessibility laws

Building a website is a task that virtually every company will face. However, in the midst of 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?” The latter question is typically forgotten due to the lack of awareness surrounding web accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act are meant to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, many companies only think about these acts when it comes time to provide customers with certain services or products. As the daily use of the internet continues to grow, and companies seek larger digital footprints, they must learn to adhere to digital accessibility laws.

Digital accessibility laws are designed to remove online barriers that many people with disabilities face. They are also meant to make digital environments more inclusive for all people. In addition to following digital accessibility laws, organizations should be sure to avoid succumbing to the following seven common misconceptions that surround web accessibility:

1. Web barriers are rarely considered when companies think about accessibility.

In days long gone by, the notion of accessibility referred primarily to the way a building was constructed. For example, ramps at front doors, printed materials, the use of Braille, lowered elevator buttons, and company policies regarding active duty service animals, were all factors that companies carefully considered as they created their businesses, developed services, and offered products for sale. However, the digital age is now upon us, which means that in addition to other accessibility laws, 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, and has 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.  The importance of online participation is not considered.

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 equates to more than 27 percent of a year spent browsing the Internet. With these browsing habits in mind, imagine that you are suddenly unable to go online. The normal activities that you conduct online on a daily basis are suddenly inaccessible to you. The latter hypothetical nightmare is all too real to individuals with disabilities who are faced with digital barriers. Fortunately, digital accessibility laws are designed to succinctly remove the barriers and help people with disabilities enjoy using 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 have disabilities. The type of disabilities can impact a wide range of areas, including mobility, vision, hearing, speech, cognitive, dexterity, and memory. Unfortunately, there are many types of digital barriers that can make it virtually impossible for individuals with certain disabilities to properly use websites. To combat the latter issue, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was issued to help companies understand the technical requirements needed for online accessibility. The third version of WCAG, version 2.1 was released in June 2018 to include 17 additional criteria for inclusion success. The new criteria focus on helping companies remove digital barriers from mobile technologies, which is especially important when you consider that mobile devices account for an estimated 40 percent of all internet traffic

4. The impact of online barriers is misunderstood.

Far too many companies falsely assume that digital barriers don’t have significant impacts. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For example, 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. This situation can easily be avoided if companies follow WCAG 2.1 best practices and adhere to digital accessibility laws.

5. Websites are not built to be compatible with the assistive technology (AT) that some people with disabilities use to go online.

Many people that have disabilities use assistive technology to go online. There are several types of assistive technologies available for use, including screen readers to assist individuals with vision disabilities, and keyboard or mouse replacement tools that can be used to assist people with dexterity disabilities. Sadly, the majority of websites are not compatible with all of the 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 alt image tags. Conversely, sip-and-puff technology can only be used if the web developer has included keyboard commands within the page navigation.

6. Web accessibility benefits to the company are not 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 often labeled as SEO best practices. For example, larger tough targets, predictable layout, and captioned videos can not only bolster SEO rankings, but can also lead to increased site conversions. As a general rule of thumb, accessible web content is more effective because it is better organized, properly labeled, and more easily found 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 An additional 40 percent believe that web content accessibility hasn’t changed, while 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 will help companies effectively follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Our digital accessibility solution encourages companies to maintain compliance with the latest accessibility standards and regulations. From conducting web compliance evaluations, to offering remediation services with assistive technology, to 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.

References

  1. OVER 2250 WEB ACCESSIBILITY LAWSUITS FILED IN 2018. COULD THEY TRIPLE IN 2019?  Bureau of  Internet Accessibility, February 28. 2019
  2. Digital in 2019 We are Social and HootSuite, January 2019
  3. Percentage of mobile device website traffic in the United States from 1st quarter 2015 to 1st quarter 2019 Statista, July 2019
  4. 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.

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