How often have you heard the phrase ‘website accessibility’? If you’re a business owner, it’s surprisingly not as often as you should expect. The reason why is that everyday life is being conducted online more and more every year. Unfortunately, the web and most mobile applications have been developed in ways that exclude the one billion people who live with a disability. The exclusion may not be intentional but it’s still a rising issue because it impacts the quality of life of approximately 1 out of 5 people worldwide. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 wasn’t written to address this exclusion, which is why case law is shaping the landscape of legal precedent when it comes to the internet. To better understand why businesses need to take website accessibility seriously, let’s explore some important statistics around disability, including how it impacts market reach, revenue and why the rise in lawsuits should inspire every business to be proactive versus reactive.
Believe it or not, the moment you launched your new website approximately one billion people couldn’t easily navigate it. Over the past three years, WebAIM conducted an accessibility evaluation of the home pages for the top 1,000,000 web sites. It found that 97.4% of home pages had detectable WCAG 2.0 failures! As a business owner, the homepage is where a lot of website traffic is won or lost, converted or not. If 1 out of 5 people can’t use your website to shop and complete a purchase, they’re going to leave your site in search of one that can meet their needs. That means your competitors with accessible websites will not only win over those customers the first time they visit their website, those customers will likely become repeat customers. Even though it’s difficult to estimate the total percentage of people with disabilities who would purchase your product or service, there’s no doubt businesses are missing out on generating revenue from these potential customers.
When most businesses consider implementing website accessibility, they do so because of the fear of a lawsuit or, more likely than not, because they’ve received a complaint or demand letter from a person with a disability. A greater motivation, however, may be the amount of revenue being lost to competitors who make accessibility a priority. One example of revenue loss was revealed by a 2019 study by Nucleus Research with blind adults, it concluded global internet retailers may be losing up to $6.9 billion tied to blind consumers to their competitors with more accessible websites. Another noteworthy discovery about consumer behaviour was made thanks to a 2016 Click Away Pound Survey. It found that 71% of disabled customers with access needs will click away from a website they find difficult to use. This same survey highlighted their spending power to be £11.75 billion, around 10% of the total UK online spend in 2016. As scary as dealing with a lawsuit may be for any sized business, loss of revenue to competitors may be the most immediate and damaging consequence of not being accessible.
The total number of people living with a disability is expected to increase drastically over the next thirty years. A large portion of this growing community will be people who are 60 years and older. When considering just this demographic, we’re looking at a population size of 2.1 billion people by 2050. That’s not even taking into account other types of disabilities like “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm or lost glasses or “situational limitations” such as being in bright sunlight or in an environment where listening to audio is not an option. This disability community is growing and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. The size and spending power of this community alone makes it hard to deny the business case for implementing website accessibility in 2021. The longer you wait the harder it will be to win over their trust and support.
Dealing with a class action lawsuit against your business may be the most unwanted distraction for a business owner. Not only is it a big distraction, but it’s expensive. Lawsuits cost companies between $15,000 and $100,000 per domain, which does not begin to include internal costs to actually fix the problem. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 23% increase in ADA-related cases, growing from 2,890 cases to 3,550 cases. And 2021 looks to keep this trend going as web accessibility litigation continues to steadily grow throughout the first half of the year. While Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted primarily to focus on obstacles at physical locations, case law is playing a major role in setting precedent for how the ADA applies to the internet. Regardless of what’s clear or not from a legal standpoint, it hard to deny the need as more of everyday life is concentrated online.
When it comes to the business case for website accessibility it’s hard to ignore numbers like: one billion people living with a disability, $6.9 billion in lost revenue or 3,550 ADA-related lawsuits. Every business wants to experience growth every year. Making websites, mobile applications and tools accessible to people with disabilities is one clear path to ensuring short and long-term growth. Businesses who make this commitment now will increase their market reach, winning over a community of new, loyal customers. Additionally, they’ll stop losing revenue to competitors who may be winning customers simply because they’re accessible not because they have a superior product or service. ADA-related lawsuits continue to rise, so why wait to find out if your business is next. As a business owner you’ll save more money if you’re proactive instead of reactive. No matter how you slice it, you have to spend capital to become compliant. So, if you were presented with the option today, how would you choose to spend your capital: paying for ADA compliance fixes and lawyer fees or paying just ADA compliance fixes?