Imagine going to an online store to buy new clothes—only to discover you can’t decipher the different styles and colors. Or visiting a landing page to register for an important event, to find you’re unable to fill out the form.
For nearly 61 million people, these scenarios and others like them are all too common. Color blindness, stress injuries, hearing loss, arthritis, vision impairments, hand tremors, and dozens of other disabilities impact how many individuals interact with the internet.
If your website isn’t optimized for people with disabilities, you’re doing a disservice to both your customers and your business. And unfortunately, it’s an easy issue to overlook. Even companies that prioritize inclusion in theory may find this is one area where they tend to fall short in practice.
To help ensure your company is doing its best to address accessibility, here’s a quick overview of the need-to-know basics.
The basics of website accessibility compliance
For many public and nonprofit organizations, website accessibility is mandated under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Specifically, Section 508 of this act requires federal agencies to make electronic information accessible to people with disabilities—along with education institutions and nonprofits that receive federal funding.
That means websites need to be compatible with assistive technology, such as screen readers and keyless keyboards, and should include components that make it easy for everyone to navigate. Image alt text, captioned media, audio transcripts, and fonts that flow consistently when enlarged are all examples of critical elements.
Equally important is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. These accessibility standards, set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are widely regarded as the best set of directives for public institutions and private companies alike.
However, the standards don’t stop there.
In addition to following these guidelines for your own website, it’s important to do your due diligence with third-party tools and apps, too.
The average business uses anywhere from 102 to 288 different SaaS apps. If any of those tools are not designed for accessibility, your customers and employees will suffer as a result.
How accessibility impacts your business
Depending on your industry and business type, the consequences of noncompliance can be serious. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had been the basis for thousands of accessibility lawsuits in recent years, with defendants paying as much as $90,000 to resolve claims.
But lawsuits and legal issues are far from the only reason to prioritize accessibility. Making it easy to see, hear, and interact with your website ensures every customer, client, employee, and partner can engage with your company. And that means accessibility is just plain great for business.
It’ll help with visibility, too. The more accessible your website is, the more likely you are to perform well when it comes to Google’s official accessibility guidelines. Screen reader-friendly subheadings, a table of contents, alt text for images, and transcripts for videos can all have an impact on how high your website ranks in organization search results.
And the higher you rank, the more likely you are to get your products or services in front of all the right people—including the vast segment of individuals with disabilities. Research shows that the discretionary income of working-age adults with disabilities is $21 billion. Factor in their families and friends who also support the businesses that accommodate them, and you’re looking at a potential market worth billions of dollars.
At the end of the day, accessibility should be a top priority for marketers, developers, designers, and anyone else who has a say in how your website is formulated. By getting into the habit of meeting different needs with each addition and update, you can create the best possible experience for everyone involved.
Looking for tools you can use to get into the accessibility game? See how Formstack helps you create web content that’s 508 compliant and assistive technology-friendly.