Website Accessibility: How Can You Play by the Rules?
Website accessibility has been a hotly debated topic in recent times. As the penetration of the internet grows, the demand for web accessibility is also rising.
In simple terms, web accessibility refers to the process or practice of making the web accessible to everyone regardless of their disabilities. However, many website owners continue to ignore web accessibility, which is hurting their business in many ways. Let's see why.
Why is Website Accessibility Important?
In recent years, the number of website accessibility lawsuits has shot up. An increasing number of plaintiffs are bringing lawsuits under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), targeting various businesses.
In 2018, 2,285 lawsuits were filed, almost tripling from the 815 filed in 2017. In the first half of 2019, the number of website accessibility lawsuits reached over 3,200, a staggering 51.7 percent increase compared to the previous six months.
While news of bigwigs like Dominos getting slapped with an ADA lawsuit made headlines across the country, many small and medium businesses that have a physical location and offer online services as well were targeted.
Unfortunately, the small guys usually don't have the resources to fight a long and potentially expensive legal battle. So, the best way to avoid website accessibility lawsuits is to make your website accessible.
What Do You Need to Know?
When making your website accessible, you need to consider the four web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) principles. These principles are:
- Perceivable: Users must be able to perceive the information and user interfaces on your website with one or more of their senses, be it auditory or visual.
- Operable: Users must be able to access and control various user interface elements. For example, they should be able to click buttons, open links, and fill out contact forms.
- Understandable: Users should be able to understand the content and the operational elements of the website. For example, if a button says "click here to know more," every user should be able to understand and take the appropriate action.
- Robust: The content on your website must be robust enough so that users can interpret it via different technologies, including assistive technologies.
You also need to consider the following conformance requirements:
- Level A: These requirements consist of the most basic web accessibility features. Failure to follow these requirements will render your website inaccessible to all groups of disabled people.
- Level AA: Websites should conform to these requirements as it will increase their accessibility significantly.
- Level AAA: This is the highest level of web accessibility. If your website conforms to it, it will allow all disabled users to access your site.
Why Should Accessibility Be a Top Priority for E-Commerce?
So, where does e-commerce fit into accessibility? As it turns out, web accessibility can bring a lot of benefits to an e-commerce website. They include:
- Incorporating accessibility will take your user experience to the next level, increasing consumer engagement.
- Accessibility components such as video transcripts and captions also improve your search engine discoverability.
- An estimated 9 million people (19.4 percent) of non-institutionalized civilians have a disability. You can tap into this market with an accessible website.
- It also helps improve your search engine optimization. In fact, website accessibility and SEO go hand in hand.
Various web technologies are already in place, helping business owners and marketers to reach out to people with disabilities. These technologies are also proving helpful in making the web accessible to people with situational disabilities. It’s time to start investing in a suitable accessibility technology.
Manish Dudharejia is the President and Co-Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.