Unlocking the Web: The How and Why of Web Accessibility

By Victor Ayala | Published May 25, 2021 | Categories: Digital Marketing , Web Development

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May 20th marked the tenth anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which was conceived to start meaningful conversations about digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people in the world living with disabilities.

Unfortunately, despite the increased attention web accessibility is getting, far too many websites—ranging from small and celebrity-owned businesses to government and university websites—are still closed off to individuals with disabilities. A 2019 study commissioned by Deque Systems found that 70 percent of websites in the U.S. remain inaccessible to vision-impaired persons.

Dedicated as we are to creating a smarter, safer, and more equitable web, we'd be remiss if we didn't take this time to talk about how crucial accessibility is, not only for users with disabilities, but for the businesses and institutions who want to welcome all people to their websites. So settle in—we're digging in to WHY you need to prioritize accessibility now and HOW you can achieve it sooner than you might think.

 

Why It's Time to Optimize For Accessibility

sign reading accessible entry

The Numbers Are Significant

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than one billion people living with disabilities worldwide— around 15% of the world's population! And this number is only forecast to increase as the population gets older and the prevalence of chronic health conditions grows. And the term disability covers a wide range of conditions, including auditory, visual, cognitive, neurological, physical, and speech disabilities.

More than seven million Americans are blind or have some form of vision impairment. Forty-eight million are either deaf or hard of hearing. There is an estimated $490 billion of disposable income from working-age persons with disabilities in the U.S. alone. Failing to make your site accessible means not only means denying fair use of your site; it also means you're missing out on connecting to a valuable audience.

Accessible Sites Are Better... For Everyone

Many of the changes required for accessibility compliance don't just benefit those with disabilities, so embrace these necessary changes.

A truly accessible website, to put it plainly, just works better. It's easier and more pleasurable to use, provides information more clearly, and helps users determine next steps more easily. Most of your users may not have visual impairments, but they have struggled making out details on a smart phone or laptop outside on a bright day. High-contrast ratios for text can help. Many users may not have arthritis or bodily tremors, but they have tried to access your site while on the move. Help them, too, with larger buttons and touch targets. And your every user may not have hearing problems, but video captions can make it easier for them to watch a video in a high-noise environment. Taking care to create a more equitable web naturally creates a better web.

Web Accessibility Lawsuits Are Prevalent & Costly

In the last several years, massive names like Nike, Netflix, Domino's Pizza, Fox News, Bank of America, and even Beyonce Knowles have faced litigation for having inaccessible websites. And most of these lawsuits end with substantial financial settlements in favor of plaintiffs.

According to the 2020 Website Accessibility Lawsuit Recap by Accessibilty.com, more than 2,000 web accessibility lawsuits were filed and more than 265,000 demand letters were sent in 2020 alone. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility estimates that these lawsuits have cost businesses and organizations billions of dollars.

But More Importantly...

It's the right thing to do! There's more at stake with web accessibility than lost revenue and lawsuits. The internet is one of, if not the most, ubiquitous and important sources of information today, and every single person has a right to access it.

It's time to do your part. And we'll help you get started!

 

How To Start Making Your Site More Accessible Now
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Start Small

Many of the most common accessibility complaints leveled against websites have rather simple solutions. The fact that many of these are easy to fix does not mean they represent small issues for disabled users. For users reliant on screen reader technology, "simple" things like missing alt text or vague links mean a ton of missing context and usability. Here are some examples of accessibility issues that can more easily be addressed today:

  • Missing alt text for images can be addressed in your CMS, a photo editor, or through other tools. Use clear, descriptive language to help the user understand what is being displayed or what purpose the image serves. For purely decorative images, this alt text should be null.
  • Ensure page titles are clear and unique to help users with screen readers more clearly understand the structure and flow of your content.
  • Be descriptive and clear with link text. Links like "Learn More" and "Read More" offer little context by themselves and can be confusing for users dependent on screen readers. Write your links to be clear without additional context. For example, "Learn More About Our Services" is far more useful to users with disabilities than "Learn More."
  • Make closed captioning available for videos with audio. Help your users with hearing impairments engage meaningfully with video content by enabling closed captions through your video platform (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).
  • Use plain language and organize text into easy-to-read, scannable sections with meaningful headings.

Enlist an Expert!

As you face accessibility issues that require coding and other more advanced solutions, don't hesitate to reach out to an expert! Whether you're just getting started building a site or making changes to improve accessibility, the team at Beacon has the experience, expertise, and technology to make it happen!

We design with accessibility in mind and perform audits to assess your current website as part of our Website Health Management program. We do this by leveraging some of the most powerful tools around. Whether it's through the built-in accessibility features of our trusted CMS partners, Cascade and Modern Campus, or the powerful accessibility tools offered by our friends at DubBot and SiteImprove, we'll keep you in WCAG and ADA compliance through regular testing and tuning.

Not sure where to start? Contact us! Let's work together to make a smarter, safer, and more equitable web.

 

Let's get to work!

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