When it comes to designing and developing your business website, what goals are at the top of your priority list?
Webmasters and their teams typically focus on inbound web links, SEO keywords, and getting their clients’ websites to appear on the first page of Google’s search results, which are all important goals to have.
But equally important to implementing an advanced, responsive web design with built-in marketing power is creating a website that isn’t accidentally designed to automatically exclude a portion of the population.
Of course, no business owner would intentionally exclude a potential customer pool, but the fact of the matter is that many business websites are guilty of doing exactly that.
Will an individual with impaired sight have an easy time using your website? What about someone who is hearing impaired?
Currently, there are over 60 million Americans who are living with a disability. Physical disabilities that affect a person’s ability to use a website include:
● Difficulty lifting and grasping, and a lack of dexterity, which impairs one’s ability to use a computer mouse and keyboard.
● Difficulty seeing due to vision impairment, which causes an individual to rely on a screen magnifier or a screen reader.
● Complete lack of sight, which causes the individual to rely solely on screen readers, alternate image attributes, and auditory descriptions of all web content.
● Difficulty hearing or a complete lack of hearing, which causes the individual to rely on transcripts, audio and video captions, and other visual cues that substitute sounds, such as a visual “burst” to substitute the traditional chatbox pop-up “ding.”
Contrary to popular thought, physically disabled individuals do not represent the minority of website users. In fact, according to data that Google compiled from the World Bank, CDC, and NHI, there are more hearing-impaired internet users in the United States than there are citizens of Spain and more vision-impaired internet users right here in America than there are human beings living in Canada.
Think about that for a minute.
What percentage of the US’s disabled population are visiting your website?
Is your website accessible to the disabled?
Does your website meet the Americans with Disabilities Act’s compliance standards?
Perhaps it’s time for a website checkup…
In this article, you will learn what you, your webmaster, and your digital marketers can do to ensure that your website is accessible and meets ADA compliance.
Though all websites, especially business sites, should aim to be user-friendly for every visitor regardless of their disability status, not all websites are legally obligated to stay in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Do you know whether or not your business must follow ADA website compliance guidelines? The following is a list of the types of businesses that are legally obligated to offer accessibility websites:
● State and local governments
● Non-profits, charities, NGOs, and 501(c)3 organizations with 15+ employees
● Companies that either rely on or benefit the public
● Private businesses with 15+ employees
It might surprise you to find private businesses on the list. The number of employees working at a private business will also influence whether or not that company is obligated to create an accessible website, which might seem peculiar to you.
Really, the bottom line is that your goal, as a business owner, should be to provide every web visitor with fair and equal access to the information on your website. The primary objective of having a website and investing in digital marketing that drives website traffic is to convert those web visitors into customers or clients. Of course, you wouldn’t want your website to bounce any potential customers away. But losing out on business isn’t the only downside of not having an accessible, ADA-compliant website.
It’s also a legal nightmare waiting to happen.
That’s right. There are serious legal ramifications for ignoring the accessibility issues of your website if your business is among those that must comply with the ADA. The most severe penalties include:
● A $75,000 fine upon the first reported violation
● A $150,000 fine if the first reported violation is ignored
● Lawsuits filed by disabled persons could result in millions of dollars in damages and pain and suffering restitution
● Attorneys’ fees alone could cost tens of thousands of dollars
Are companies really being sued for not having accessible websites?
According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, yes, companies have been and will be sued for failing to comply. Discriminating against individuals with disabilities is taken very seriously in the United States. Under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the US Department of Justice listed “not providing an accessible website” as an “impermissible act of discrimination.”
Back in 2018, more than 1,000 web accessibility lawsuits were filed between the months of January and July, even though statistically only 800 lawsuits were predicted for the entire year. By December 31st of that year, the total number of lawsuits hit 2,258!
In 2021, the number of lawsuits has only gone up. You don’t want to be taken to court for failing to provide an ADA-compliant website. There is no better time than the present moment to make your website accessible to all users.
Time and again, Google has said, “make sites for users, not search engines.” Designing an accessible website takes this concept to a whole new level. When sites are developed, designed, and updated with accessibility in mind, all internet users will have equal access to the information presented on those sites.
Visitors with physical disabilities, as well as those with situational disabilities and socio-economic limitations on internet bandwidth and speed, should be able to experience all that your website has to offer without encountering any barriers that prevent them from interacting with the site.
What exactly should your website include in order to make each page more accessible?
There is a lot you can do, but to get you started, here are the simplest actions you and your webmaster can take right now:
● Add appropriate alternate text for all images and check that screen readers will recognize the new text content.
● Insert closed captioning on all of your videos, as well as a transcript of each video directly beneath the video itself.
● Eliminate mouse-only interaction rules within your website elements.
Remember, website compliance is a process which could take time. Currently, an ADA compliance web plugin doesn’t exist. Transforming your site into one that is friendly and interactive for all users won’t happen overnight either. It requires modifications, adjustments, and a lot of testing and collecting feedback from physically impaired web visitors.
That being said, you can use one of the following tools to check the accessibility level of your website:
● A11Y Accessibility Testing Platform: Developed by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, this ADA compliance checker can scan your website or specific web page URLs and make a quick, accurate assessment. If you opt-in, the Bureau of Internet Accessibility will constantly monitor your website for accessibility issues and alert your team when high risk concerns arise.
● Axe DevTools Web Accessibility Testing: This Chrome plugin extension offered by Axe DevTools can identify accessibility issues on your website, and though this tool also claims to be able to “fix” accessibility issues, all fixes usually must be modified, adjusted, and authorized by you and / or your webmaster to ensure no damage to UI or UX occurs.
Put very simply, in order to meet ADA compliance standards, your website must be:
In the next section, you’ll learn what you can do to ensure your website is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
The human body receives information from five different sensory inputs, otherwise known as the five senses. These are sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
Obviously, you won’t be able to communicate with your website visitors via smell, taste, and touch, but you can focus on heightening what your hearing impaired visitors see and what your vision impaired visitors hear when they interact with your website.
For the disabled, when one sense is impaired, other senses are heavily relied upon, and you can bear this general rule in mind as you design your website.
A perceivable website is a site that offers both visual and auditory options for every element that appears throughout the website. For example, a blog article will also offer an MP3 playbox so that blind visitors can listen to, instead of read, the article. Embedded videos that appear on a web page will include closed captioning that displays text, enabling deaf visitors to understand what the video is talking about. In short, a perceivable website is one that provides alternative ways to consume content.
An operable website is a site that enables visitors to easily navigate through web pages via any method they choose—keyboard, mouse, automatic or manual scrolling, or touchscreen. Operable websites do not place time limits or restrictions on web pages, which would otherwise cause web page sessions to “time out.” Another aspect to consider when it comes to operable websites, is that the web pages should avoid use of physical “triggers” such as automatically running a strobe light that could cause migraines or seizures.
The basic rule for ensuring your website is understandable is this: a visitor should spend almost no time trying to figure out how to use your website, but rather spend their time on your site gaining information. Using simplistic, logical web page layouts can greatly reduce the amount of time visitors spend familiarizing themselves with your site. For example, keeping the search bar, newsletter opt-in, and chatbox in the same spot on every web page of your site can aid in presenting an understandable website.
You’ve probably heard this term before—robust web design is critical for countless reasons. A robust website will work well on all browsers and perform properly on all devices, including mobile smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices. But did you know that you can also design your website to perform robustly for disabled visitors? By including assistive technologies on your site, you can enhance website engagement with the vision and hearing impaired. The key is to continue making upgrades as technologies evolve.
Every business wants consumers to view their brand in a positive light. Building a positive brand image isn’t fast or easy, so the last thing a business wants to do is tarnish the favorable brand image they’ve worked so hard to achieve. One ADA lawsuit can ruin a brand’s reputation. But offering an ADA compliant web design can have the opposite effect. It can actually improve your brand’s standing within the consumer market.
Brands that go the extra mile to accommodate disabled users score extra points with their “able” visitors, in addition to their impaired ones. These days, people care about caring, accommodating businesses. Ethics and consideration have become the most important core values a business can possess, and one way you can show your visitors that your core values include a commitment to treating all web visitors and potential customers fairly and equally is to present an ADA compliant website experience.
As other articles on this blog have mentioned, SEO goes hand-in-hand with building a positive brand image, increasing revenue, and growing a business’s online presence. But did you know that by creating an accessible website that serves the vision and hearing impaired, you will naturally expand the search engine optimization of your entire site?
The reason this occurs is because adding extra text for the hearing impaired automatically increases organic keywords. In fact, nearly all of the ADA compliance upgrades you make will be SEO-friendly, such as including video and audio transcripts, using proper heading tags, and presenting a consistent, predictable layout structure. Google’s spiders and bots will “crawl” the new compliant content and your site will gradually rise in Google’s ranking as a result.
Essentially, there is no downside to making your business website accessible and ADA compliant.
Does your website meet the ADA compliance standards, or could it be a lot more accessible to the disabled? The experienced website design and development team at FTx 360 can assess your website, provide a full analytics report, and give you honest, actionable feedback that you can use to transform your site, one upgrade and one update at a time.
If you’re looking for more than a web assessment, our web developers can work with you to redesign your business site so that it’s accessible to all visitors and stays in compliance with the ADA. We offer web management to monitor site performance and can custom design your entire site. Contact us to learn more about what our web development services and SEO marketing strategies can do for your business.
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