Over the past three years, web accessibility has become one of the fastest-growing issues in the legal and technological fields. This should come as no surprise, as not only is it a business imperative, it is a moral and a social commitment to one of the principles of modern marketing and businesses.
What is the impact of embracing web accessibility? What’s in jeopardy when your business site is not accessible? How can your website benefit from digital accessibility? In this article, we provide 5 reasons why web accessibility is an opportunity too big to miss, and a risk too large to take, for any business today.
1. Expand your audience
In a world where 1 out of 4 people encounter accessibility issues while using the web, incorporating accessibility features actually helps business growth by making the site friendly to all users. An accessible site makes your content, product, and services available to a wider range of people including customers with disabilities, elderly people with age-related disabilities, and users with circumstantial needs.
Postponing or opting not to include accessibility can cut your business off from potential customers who experience any type of disability, about 20% of the general population. In fact, research shows that 71% of disabled users will click away from a website that they find difficult to use while 82% of customers with access needs would spend more if websites were more accessible.
2. Boost Your SEO Efforts
Another point to consider is how accessibility affects website visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs) and a site’s overall SEO rating.
One of the most important factors for a website’s SEO status is providing a good user experience (UX) as it affects the amount of time users spend on your website interacting with your content. An accessible site is, by its nature, easier to navigate, regardless of the user’s disabilities, and therefore enhances both the site usability and user experience. It allows users to experience more extensive, comfortable, and practical navigation, ultimately lowering the bounce rate and increasing repeat visits.
In addition, many SEO requirements overlap with accessibility best practices, such as providing quality and accessible content and implementing an intuitive design universal to all users. Most of the technical practices such as the use of the right semantics, descriptive alternative text in all visuals, an organized header structure, title tags and more, relate to the site’s compatibility. It makes your site accessible to different types of navigations such as keyboard navigation or visually impaired using screen readers.
3. Improve Your Brand Reputation
Digital accessibility is an opportunity for every business to create a positive impact, promote its brand reputation, establish a competitive advantage, and increase customer loyalty.
Accessible organizations are perceived more positively today; social and corporate responsibility are concepts which people value. As shown in Forbes’s cited study, corporate social responsibility is a key strategy for businesses to increase their customers’ fidelity. Out of 1,000 Americans, 88% said they’d be more loyal to a business that advocates for social issues, while 92% said they’d definitely trust them.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been on the books for nearly 30 years. Even though it doesn’t mention websites, Title III of the ADA has been interpreted by U.S. courts and affirmed by the Department of Justice in late 2018 to apply to websites.
Almost one year before that, in January 2017, the U.S. Access Board published a final rule updating the standards covered by Section 508 of the federal law known as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It incorporated and selected international standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to be applied to websites, electronic documents, and software. Eventually, this not only impacts federal agencies but also all companies and all digital communication with a federal agency.
Lawsuits with claims on web accessibility are increasing. During 2018, more than 2,000 cases were filed all across the United States, with New York and Florida topping the list. This is triple the number over 2017. The lawsuits included individual and class action suits. In addition, on average only 5% of these lawsuits are taken to trial, meaning that 40,000 demand letters are resolved outside of the courtroom. These numbers look to be tripling in 2019.
The majority of the lawsuits involved small and medium businesses. One of the most highlighted incidents was when Emily Fuller, a visually impaired woman, sued 175 business owners as their websites weren’t ADA compliant. In all of the cases, she claimed that the sites weren’t compatible with her screen reader.
5. Avoid The Cost Of A Lawsuit
Businesses are being urged to take a serious look at their websites and ensure that their digital presence is accessible to all users. Against these kinds of lawsuits, businesses face financial penalties if they are not compliant.
In cases where both parties agree to settle, the average settlement ranges from $20,000 to $55,000 and more. This excludes attorney fees, paying the plaintiff compensation for damages, and lost of time/customers while the website is down, and website redesign. Given these numbers, it is clear that the cost of not being compliant can be crushing, even for a medium business with a sizable budget.
Of course, there is no reason to assume this trend will be limited to the U.S. Many other governments around the world have incorporated web accessibility requirements such as the E.U., Australia, and the United Kingdom. Many of these laws will demand the same—if not more stringent—levels of compliance.
It is clear that the impact and the benefits of web accessibility are far greater than you may have realized. Now is the time to embrace digital accessibility. A website that boasts an accessibility interface possesses a “quality label” of sorts, a clear indication that the business cares about providing for their users’ equal access and adapting to their needs.
The reasons why web accessibility should be a priority for every business today are clear. With online businesses representing more and more of the total U.S. market, organizations are taking a big risk if their digital commerce is inaccessible to almost 20% of the population. Due to increasing disability awareness and a higher number of online businesses, there is now a higher risk of complaints levied against companies operating in this field.
Web accessibility is crucial for companies to understand that business goals must always meet the customers’ needs. A brand’s commitment to digital accessibility lets users know that it honestly cares about and acts on their behalf. Furthermore, it makes sites rank better on search engines and, ultimately, it may even help to boost sales by opening new markets.