Key Takeaways -
- Web accessibility ensures your website is easy to navigate, has a clean structure, and provides a high-quality user experience.
- Following WCAG to achieve accessibility leads to compliance and eventual business growth.
- Web accessibility helps enlarge your possible customer base.
- Web accessibility results in ranking higher on search engine results.
- The accessibility guidelines help enhance the performance of your website.
- Businesses that work towards accessibility build a positive reputation, creating happy and loyal customers.
If you own a physical store, you will incorporate all facilities to make your customers feel welcome and ensure everyone has uninterrupted access to products in the store. In case a potential customer came by in a wheelchair, you’d want them to be able to maneuver around your displays without having to worry about any accessibility issues. You would ensure they have the same enjoyable experience a potential customer without a wheelchair would have.
Similarly, when you have a website, you would like all of your audience to have a seamless and accessible experience. However, on average, there are about 51.4 accessibility errors on the home pages of the top one million websites, 26% of home page images have missing alt texts, and 86.4% of home pages have low contrast text! These cause accessibility issues for people with special needs.
You may wonder, what is web accessibility, and why is web accessibility important for your business? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility makes websites usable by all visitors, including those with disabilities, impairments, and limitations. It incorporates certain design principles which ensure the delivery of similar experiences on web pages to all visitors. Accessibility is a fundamental goal for websites, giving all users equal, unhindered access to your content.
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WIP) members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) enforce guidelines across the internet to ensure adherence to accessibility standards. The consortium publishes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a benchmark for website accessibility. Adhering to these standards ensures that your website is accessible to the broadest possible audience.
While government agencies, their contractors, and healthcare organizations have to be in line with these standards by law, it is not a legal requirement for private businesses. Nevertheless, private business websites must be ‘accessible.’ There are multiple cases in which major companies have been sued for lacking an accessible website. For example, in the Domino’s Pizza V. Guillermo Robles decision, the court ruled in favor of Robles, a blind man who could not place an order through Domino’s website despite using a screen reader. In the USA, almost 100 inaccessibility lawsuits are filed per week!
What does web accessibility mean for your business's website?
The WCAG standards are organized by four main principles to ensure web accessibility by all visitors despite limitations, disabilities, and impairments – Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (or POUR).
Information or content not presented in a processable format is not equally accessible. The principle focuses on the seamless processing of information on a webpage by assistive devices like screen readers.
‘Operable’ websites offer optimum accessibility in terms of functionality, including seamless navigation, appropriately labeled links, etc. This principle ensures that the user interface components are keyboard accessible, provide enough time for users to read or perceive, do not cause seizures, and are easily navigable.
All website content, including written and graphic design, should be easily understood by visitors. For example, verbose, jumbled language limits access to those with cognitive difficulties and impairments and people who do not speak your site’s predominant language.
This principle applies to your website structure, too – pages need to be organized intuitively, and the navigation has to be easy.
This principle encourages writing your HTML so that assistive technologies can parse your code without a visual reference. Hence, the content on your website is easily interpretable by assistive technologies.
What is the Importance of Web Accessibility in Business?
Currently, you cannot afford to ignore “web accessibility”; it is a legal requirement and the right thing to do. People with disabilities should have a seamless digital experience as everyone else. Building an accessible website encourages social inclusivity that eliminates barriers and allows all users to enjoy a positive experience while interacting with your brand online.
Reach a Wider Audience
According to the World Health Organisation, about 1 billion people (i.e., 15% of the world population) live with some form of disability. Globally, the market that includes people with disabilities, their friends, and their families is estimated to control over $13 trillion in annual disposable income. Hence, making your website accessible for persons with vision, hearing, mobility, learning, and cogitative disabilities makes good business sense in terms of revenue by allowing you to reach a broader audience.
Reduce the Risk of Legal Complications
Web accessibility is becoming a ‘civil right’ considering how the internet is increasingly becoming a part of people’s daily lives. While, according to The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities have the right to enjoy equal access to public services, WCAG mandates web accessibility for all.
There have been several legal cases where the U.S. Department of Justice has determined that inaccessible websites violate the ADA, resulting in severe repercussions for businesses. These legal hassles can threaten your business’s brand reputation and revenue.
Web Accessibility Improves Website Ranking
Accessible websites are better in terms of usability, reach, and inclusivity. When businesses improve to accommodate people with disabilities, their approach benefits their entire audience. Creating an accessible website makes it more likely to be found by improving search engine optimization (SEO).
Under some circumstances, the goals of SEO and Web accessibility are aligned. Building websites with cleaner interfaces and easier navigation helps people with disabilities and improves your site’s retention rate. For example, text equivalents of videos or audio files are a requirement under WCAG to make content accessible to people with disabilities. Google and other search engines use text-based crawlers, which means they cannot search through video and audio files. However, closed captions and transcripts can be easily discovered and indexed by search engines, hence improving the website’s SEO ranking.
Benefits Brand Perception
In current times of digital activism, many consumers want to support companies that share their beliefs, ideals, and values. A recent survey by Accenture Strategy states that 62% of consumers prefer to purchase from a brand willing to take a stand on social issues.
When your brand demonstrates corporate responsibility by committing to the betterment of society, people feel good about aligning themselves with you. Accessibility can largely benefit your brand perception among current and potential customers and employees.
When your business website is inaccessible, it is not just a compliance issue but displays bad business ethics. This impacts brand loyalty. Ultimately, users will steer away from an inaccessible website that is difficult to navigate and move elsewhere. People tend to visit websites that provide fast and easy access to information and prioritize good user experience.
While a part of the world population is aging, and older individuals are more likely to experience disabilities, younger generations are more likely to identify diversity, equity, and inclusivity as important factors. Trends indicate that ‘accessibility’ will become a priority in real life over time. Businesses prioritizing digital accessibility can take advantage of these changes and grow successfully.