Why Does Website Accessibility Matter? Making Websites ADA Compliant
Website accessibility is not only a legal requirement in many cases, but also an ethical and practical necessity to have an ADA compliant website. It ensures that websites are usable by the widest possible audience, which benefits both users and website owners.
Why You Should Make a Website ADA Compliant
- Inclusivity: Accessibility ensures that everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, can access and use a website. This includes people with visual, auditory, cognitive, and motor impairments.
- Legal Compliance: In many countries, including the United States with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), there are legal requirements for websites to be accessible. Failure to comply can result in legal consequences.
- Ethical Responsibility: It’s considered ethically responsible to make digital content accessible to all. This includes individuals with disabilities, as well as older individuals who may have age-related impairments.
- Broader Audience: By ensuring accessibility, websites can reach a wider audience. This includes people with disabilities, but also those using different devices or circumstances (e.g., slow internet connections, small screens).
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Many accessibility practices align with good SEO practices. For example, providing alt text for images not only helps screen readers, but also improves search engine rankings.
- Positive Brand Image: Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility can enhance a company or organization’s reputation. It shows that they care about inclusivity and are considerate of diverse user needs.
- Better User Experience for Everyone: Many accessibility features, like clear navigation and well-organized content, benefit all users. A well-designed accessible website is typically more user-friendly for everyone.
- Avoidance of Discrimination Lawsuits: Inaccessibility can lead to lawsuits, which can be costly in terms of legal fees, fines, and reputational damage.
- Future-Proofing: As technology evolves, ensuring accessibility now can help future-proof a website. This means that it’s less likely to require costly retrofits as new technologies emerge.
- Support for Emerging Technologies: Accessibility principles can align with the needs of emerging technologies, such as voice assistants, virtual reality, and more. By considering accessibility, websites can be more compatible with these future technologies.
How Many People Are Impacted By Website Accessibility?
World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that over 1 billion people, or approximately 20% of the global population, live with some form of disability. Keep in mind that this number may have changed slightly since then due to various factors such as population growth, advancements in healthcare, and changes in disability definitions and classifications.
Website accessibility is crucial for ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, can effectively navigate and interact with websites. This includes people with visual impairments who rely on screen readers, those with auditory impairments who may use captions or transcripts, individuals with cognitive disabilities who may require simplified language and clear navigation, and those with motor impairments who may use alternative input methods. Additionally, accessibility benefits older individuals with age-related impairments. By prioritizing accessibility, websites become inclusive spaces that cater to a diverse range of users, ultimately creating a more equitable online experience for everyone.
Does My Website Have To Be ADA Compliant?
Yes, it is highly recommended that your website be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. The ADA aims to ensure equal access and opportunities for individuals with disabilities, both in physical spaces and in the digital realm. While the ADA itself doesn’t explicitly mention websites, various courts have interpreted it to apply to online platforms, considering them as places of public accommodation. As a result, businesses and organizations are increasingly expected to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Failing to make your website ADA compliant could potentially expose you to legal risks, including lawsuits and financial penalties. This is especially relevant if your website serves as an essential means for providing goods, services, or information to the public. Moreover, creating an inclusive and accessible online environment is not only legally prudent but also aligns with principles of inclusivity, ethical business practices, and good customer service.
Implementing ADA compliance involves making various adjustments to ensure that individuals with disabilities, such as those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments, can navigate and interact with your website effectively. This may include providing alternative text for images, ensuring compatibility with screen readers, offering keyboard navigation options, and more for website accessibility.
Engaging in proactive efforts to achieve ADA compliance not only helps avoid potential legal liabilities but also demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility for all users, which can ultimately enhance your brand’s reputation and reach a wider audience. Consulting with experts in website accessibility can guide you through the process and help you make the necessary adjustments to meet ADA compliance standards.
Examples of Website Accessibility Barriers
ADA.gov has provided the following list of website accessibility barriers:
- Poor color contrast. People with limited vision or color blindness cannot read text if there is not enough contrast between the text and background (for example, light gray text on a light-colored background).
- Use of color alone to give information. People who are color-blind may not have access to information when that information is conveyed using only color cues because they cannot distinguish certain colors from others. Also, screen readers do not tell the user the color of text on a screen, so a person who is blind would not be able to know that color is meant to convey certain information (for example, using red text alone to show which fields are required on a form).
- Lack of text alternatives (“alt text”) on images. People who are blind will not be able to understand the content and purpose of images, such as pictures, illustrations, and charts, when no text alternative is provided. Text alternatives convey the purpose of an image, including pictures, illustrations, charts, etc.
- No captions on videos. People with hearing disabilities may not be able to understand information communicated in a video if the video does not have captions.
- Inaccessible online forms. People with disabilities may not be able to fill out, understand, and accurately submit forms without things like:
- Labels that screen readers can convey to their users (such as text that reads “credit card number” where that number should be entered);
- Clear instructions; and
- Error indicators (such as alerts telling the user a form field is missing or incorrect).
- Mouse-only navigation (lack of keyboard navigation). People with disabilities who cannot use a mouse or trackpad will not be able to access web content if they cannot navigate a website using a keyboard.
Does Website Accessibility Help SEO?
Yes, website accessibility is closely linked to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in several ways. Firstly, search engines like Google prioritize user experience, and accessibility features contribute to a better user experience for all visitors, including those with disabilities. For instance, providing descriptive alt text for images not only assists screen readers but also helps search engines understand the content of an image.
Additionally, clear and organized content, which is a key aspect of accessibility, also benefits SEO. Proper heading structures and well-formatted content improve readability and help search engines better index and rank pages. Moreover, mobile responsiveness, a critical aspect of accessibility, is also a significant factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. By ensuring that websites are accessible, businesses and website owners not only cater to a broader audience but also align with best practices for SEO, ultimately leading to higher visibility and improved rankings in search results.
Are There Discrimination Lawsuits For Websites?
Yes, there have been discrimination lawsuits related to website accessibility. In many countries, including the United States, laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require businesses and organizations to ensure that their websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means providing features like alt text for images, captions for videos, and navigational structures that can be easily used by those with assistive technologies like screen readers.
Failure to meet these accessibility standards has led to legal action, with individuals and advocacy groups filing lawsuits against companies whose websites are not compliant. These cases highlight the importance of considering accessibility as a legal requirement, and they serve as a reminder for businesses to proactively address accessibility concerns to avoid potential legal repercussions and to ensure inclusivity for all users.
In a report published by Accessibility.com, the organization estimated that 265,000 website accessibility demand letters were sent to businesses in 2020. This number continues to grow rapidly.
How Much Are Legal Fees For Website Accessibility?
The cost of legal fees for website accessibility can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of your website, the extent of accessibility issues, and the jurisdiction in which you operate. Typically, engaging legal assistance for website accessibility compliance involves several potential expenses.
Firstly, initial consultations with an attorney or law firm are usually billed on an hourly basis. These consultations serve to assess your specific situation, provide guidance on compliance requirements, and outline potential legal strategies. Rates can range from a few hundred to several hundred dollars per hour, depending on the experience and location of the legal professional.
Once the initial consultation is complete, legal fees may encompass tasks such as conducting a thorough accessibility audit of your website. This involves a comprehensive evaluation to identify any barriers to accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The cost of an accessibility audit can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, contingent on the size and complexity of your website.
If legal action is deemed necessary, expenses can further escalate. This may involve drafting demand letters to notify the relevant parties of the accessibility issues and request remediation. If a lawsuit is filed, legal fees can include drafting and filing court documents, conducting legal research, and representing you in court proceedings. These costs can vary substantially based on the complexity and duration of the legal process, potentially ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
It is important to note that some law firms may offer alternative fee structures, such as flat fees or contingency-based arrangements, depending on the circumstances and the likelihood of success in the case. Additionally, some jurisdictions may provide legal aid or pro bono services for cases related to website accessibility, though availability may be limited.
Ultimately, it is advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in website accessibility compliance to receive a more precise estimate tailored to your specific situation. Additionally, investing in proactive measures to ensure your website is accessible from the outset can help mitigate potential legal costs in the long run.
How Can I Make My Website ADA Compliant?
There are many online tools available to help with website accessibility. These tools can assist in identifying accessibility issues and implementing solutions. However, it’s important to note that automated tools are not infallible, and manual testing and user feedback are also crucial components of ensuring full accessibility.
WAVE stands for Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. WAVE is a suite of evaluation tools that helps authors make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities. WAVE can identify many accessibility and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) errors, but also facilitates human evaluation of web content. They focus on issues that are known to impact end users, facilitate human evaluation, and to educate about web accessibility.
accessiBe is software that makes websites comply with WCAG 2.1, ADA, s508 & more. This is accomplished with a contextual understanding AI engine that makes the necessary adjustments throughout the website’s code. People with motor impairments can use the keys to do everything from closing popups and forms to opening drop downs and menus without needing code changes to your website. It makes the needed changes for you. They have dedicated agents to provide you with support for litigation purposes if issues occur.
EqualWeb is a hybrid solution combines the powerful-Auto AI solution with a fully managed team of accessibility experts who audit your website and fix all issues against WCAG 2.1 guidelines. EqualWeb Managed solution states that your website will have the highest standards of web accessibility and fully protecting you from ADA-related, or equivalent legislation, lawsuits.
Google PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights is a free online tool from Google that scans your website at a high level to highlight opportunities for improvement. They recommend doing additional manual testing because the automated detection used can only detect a subset of issues and does not guarantee the accessibility of a website.