What is website accessibility and how do I get my website accessible? These are two common questions many business owners are asking themselves right now as ADA website accessibility lawsuits continue to rise throughout the country. With this consistent rise in cases over the past few years, business owners are being scared into making sure their websites, mobile applications, and other digital assets are accessible before they receive a demand or complaint letter requiring them to do so. Accessibility, however, doesn’t have to be such a scary business objective. It can be an opportunity to improve and possibly innovate a business's digital assets that will not only reduce its legal liability but lead to an increase in sales revenue.
Let’s explore what accessibility is, the benefits of meeting the minimum requirements to be ADA compliant, and an overview of the process to get there.
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” This quote by Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, does a great job of summarizing the importance of accessibility. Accessibility is essential for developers and organizations if they want to create high-quality websites and web tools that don’t exclude people with disabilities from accessing their products and services. An accessible website, tool, or technology is designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use it. Unfortunately, many sites and tools are developed with accessibility barriers that make them difficult or impossible for some people to use.
What is the main objective of your website? For most business owners, the goal is to increase the conversion of website traffic into new customers. When considering the value of updating your current website or building a new website to be accessible, it’s important to keep in mind an accessible website is an optimized conversion digital asset for your business. If your website is accessible, over time you’ll see a steady increase in the conversion of traffic as well as repeat visitors. The goal is to build a website to capture every opportunity that it attracts. Ultimately, an accessible website will help you reap the benefits of your financial investment in building and maintaining it.
There are three phases to updating your current website or mobile application to meet the minimum standards of accessibility. Even if you’re at the beginning of conception and iterating a new website, you’ll have to go through these three phases.
An audit of your website or mobile application is a worthwhile investment because it highlights not only the fixes you need to make but also a clear strategy on how to implement those fixes. Ideally, you’ll want to receive an audit that combines both manual and automated testing because it’ll provide you with the most comprehensive audit results.
A comprehensive approach to the audit process will accurately capture and record all ADA defects across your websites and mobile applications and leave you with everything you need to start the remediation process on your own or with the help of an accessibility expert.
Here are just a few of the multiple components that make up a complete website accessibility audit service:
The accessibility testing of all web pages on a sitemap
A clear outline of ADA compliance best practices
Reports and graphs that highlight your current level of compliance and the necessary fixes to correct any issues
After the audit phase is complete, you can move into the remediation phase with a clear outline of the fixes you need to make and a strategy of how to best approach implementing them. This is the phase when recommended solutions can be implemented to update your websites and mobile applications.
Depending upon your internal team, you may choose to complete the remediation phase on your own. If this is the case it’s still recommended you contract a third-party website accessibility expert for remediation oversight and consulting services to help your internal team implement and maintain WCAG compliance. If you don’t have a team or your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to manage this phase in your journey towards accessibility, you can contract a third-party website accessibility team to fully manage the code remediation phase.
During this critical phase, you must work with a reliable expert to ensure the fixes you need are successfully implemented.
The final phase is related to remaining ADA compliant once your websites and mobile applications meet the minimum standards. As the landscape of website accessibility continues to evolve, it is important to have a solution in place to remain compliant. Ongoing compliance monitoring is an inexpensive way to keep up with any necessary updates to new website accessibility standards. Subscribing to a recurring compliance service will help your business remain ADA compliant long after you have successfully gone through an initial audit and remediation.
The rise in lawsuits is scaring business owners into making their websites and mobile applications accessible to people with disabilities. And even though more of these digital platforms are becoming accessible, the fear of a lawsuit shouldn't be a primary motivating factor. At its core, the accessibility standards outlined by WCAG are design principles every web designer, web developer, software designer, and software developer should implement into their processes. A website, mobile application, or piece of software built to be accessible is better than one that is not. The reason is simple: it offers a better user experience. Update and build with accessibility in mind because it reduces your legal liability and will help you optimize the ROI you can generate from all of your digital assets.