Website Accessibility, As We Understand It.

A few months back, we were introduced to a company that was interested in our website design and development services. This is something we’ve been doing since 2002, and the conversation sounded much like many others we’d had over the years,  until the phone call shifted gears and the topic turned to accessibility. The client had been sued for discrimination against individuals with disabilities as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. We discussed the consent decree they’d signed, which essentially forced them to ensure that their website would meet a series of requirements for website accessibility (in this case, the ever-popular WCAG 2.0 AA). Website accessibility is quickly becoming a very real, very important part of the Internet's landscape.

While the technology (and the need for accessibility) has been in place for many years, sadly, it seems that legal action has been the catalyst for the eventual movement of businesses and organizations to get their accessibility in order. This means that for most people, this is a pretty new concept.  To help provide a starting point, here are four points to consider. 

What Is Web Accessibility?

Let’s start at the beginning—with a definition of web accessibility that is relatively easy to understand.  In short, to say that a website is "accessible" is to say that it is designed and built in a way that ensures that people with disabilities can use them. This can mean a number of things, but in general, we can say that an accessible website allows people with disabilities (auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual) to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web.

Just to be clear here, bringing a website up to accessibility standards does not mean re-doing your entire website or spending a great deal of money. In fact, it can typically be done fairly quickly and painlessly. You don't need to produce special content, buy special hardware, or break the bank. In most cases, an existing website that has accessibility issues can be modified using existing code to deal with the problems. Think of it as retrofitting. 

Why It’s Important

There are a number of reasons why having an accessible website is important. It begins with the fact that somewhere between 10-20% of the U.S. population has some type of disability that can prevent them from accessing the information on your website if it is not accessible. By ensuring that your site meets accessibility expectations, you can ensure the greatest possible number of site visitors can access your data. 

But in addition to this, web accessibility benefits many people without disabilities as well. This includes ensuring that people using mobile phones, smart TVs, other devices with small screens, older people with changing abilities due to aging, people with slow internet connections, and more.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It

As insensitive as it may sound at first, it’s important to note that an unprecedented number of lawsuits are currently making their way through the U.S., and this number is not going to be reduced any time soon.

Federal Courts where businesses have been named as defendants in these suits. The reason: people with disabilities are unable to access important information on the web that people without disabilities can. It’s about ensuring equal access to all. Here are some interesting facts:

  • At least 814 federal lawsuits regarding allegedly inaccessible websites were filed. This includes a number of putative class actions.
  • Last year, the first ever trial in a website accessibility lawsuit took place in Florida. The judge ruled that Winn Dixie had violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by having a site that was not accessible. Winn Dixie has a $250,000 remediation cost to fix the site.
  • The number of lawsuits is growing very quickly. In 2015, there were at least 57. In 2016, that number jumped to at least 262. And in 2017, that number ended the year at at least 814.
  • There are no signs of this slowing down, as 2018 is expected to surpass 2017 in number.

What You Can Do About It

The best approach to take right now is simply to make sure your website is accessible as quickly as possible. As noted earlier in this post, this does not usually involve a major website overhaul or expensive reinvestment into your site. We’ve found that most websites suffer from the same common set of issues, all of which can be resolved fairly quickly.

Shotgunflat can help you remediate your risk and help you ensure that your site is accessible to as many users as possible with a simple four-step accessibility plan, where we:

  • Review your site and identify accessibility issues.
  • Modify your existing site to ensure that your site is brought up to standards.
  • Provide content for your website’s policies and disclaimers section regarding accessibility;
  • Monitor your site on an ongoing basis to ensure that your site stays accessible over time.

Get in touch today and we can discuss accessibility and your website.

Mike McKenna101Comment