As a business owner, you have a legal and, some would argue, moral obligation to provide equal access to all users, including those with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that requires all businesses to provide equal access to their goods and services to individuals with disabilities. This law applies not only to physical locations but also to websites and online services, making it essential for businesses to ensure their digital presence is accessible to all users. Failure to do so can result in significant liability.
However, despite the clear benefits of having an accessible website, many businesses have yet to implement a strategy for ADA website accessibility. This article will explore why companies must develop a plan for ADA website accessibility and how.
What is Web Accessibility?
One of the main components of ADA website accessibility is ensuring that websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities. This means that websites must be usable by individuals who are blind, deaf, or have limited mobility. This includes text alternatives for visual or audio content, easy-to-use navigation, and appropriately labeled and structured forms or input fields.
Why is ADA website accessibility important?
ADA website accessibility ensures that all individuals, regardless of their abilities, have equal access to information and services on your website. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, physical, and cognitive disabilities. A website that is not accessible can prevent these individuals from accessing information, making purchases, and interacting with your business.
Additionally, the number of ADA accessibility lawsuits filed against companies has increased dramatically in recent years. Unfortunately, the trend shows no signs of slowing down, and businesses of all sizes risk being sued. Even small companies with limited resources are vulnerable, as they are often seen as easy targets by plaintiffs looking to win settlements.
Why Should Businesses Develop a Strategy for ADA Website Accessibility?
There are several reasons why you need to develop a strategy for ADA website accessibility and liability now.
The ADA requires businesses to make their websites and online content accessible to individuals with visual, auditory, physical, and cognitive impairments. By ensuring your website is accessible, you could mitigate frivolous ADA lawsuits, fines, and negative publicity.
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in lawsuits related to website accessibility. In 2022, there were 2,387 web accessibility lawsuits filed in Federal Court and California State Court under the Unruh Act. However, industry insiders say 97% of demand letters are settled and never evolve into a lawsuit. This means plaintiffs sent more than 1,500 demand letters per week in 2022.
By making your website accessible, you provide a better user experience for all visitors. This not only shows that you care about your customers, but it also helps you to stand out from your competitors. This includes adding alternative text for images, providing video captions, and using simple, straightforward language for all content. In addition, it helps to improve the overall usability of your website. Making it easier to navigate, and providing a better overall experience for your customers.
Having an accessible website reflects your brand’s values and commitment to inclusiveness. Demonstrating your commitment to accessibility can help improve your brand reputation and credibility, leading to increased customer loyalty and sales.
Improved Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When you make your website accessible to people with disabilities, you are also making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site. In addition, search engines like Google prioritize websites that are accessible and user-friendly. This can help improve your search engine rankings, increasing traffic and higher visibility for your business.
Increased Reach and Potential Customers
Making your website accessible to individuals with disabilities can increase your website traffic. According to the World Health Organization, around 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. By making your website accessible, you can tap into this large and growing market that the competition might overlook. As a result, you can reach a wider audience and expand your potential customer base.
How Can Businesses Develop a Strategy for ADA Website Accessibility?
Businesses must have a strategy for implementing web accessibility and managing potential ADA website liability. This includes having a plan for responding to any possible ADA-related complaints and lawsuits. It also means having a system in place for monitoring website accessibility and making any necessary changes.
Conduct a Website Audit
The first step in achieving ADA website accessibility is to perform an audit. This will help you to identify any areas of your website that need to be improved to meet ADA standards. You should consult a web accessibility expert to perform the audit.
While automated tools such as WAVE or Lighthouse can provide a great starting point, automated tools can only detect 30% of accessibility barriers. However, manual audits provide a more accurate assessment of website accessibility. A manual review involves evaluating a website using assistive technologies, such as screen readers, keyboard navigation, and magnifiers, to simulate the experience of individuals with disabilities.
Implement Necessary ADA Web Accessibility Updates
Once you have identified areas of your website that need to be improved, make the necessary updates. This can include adding alt tags to images, ensuring your website is navigable with a keyboard, and providing text alternatives for videos.
Train your Employees
Training your team is essential to ensure that your website remains accessible. Make sure your team understands the importance of ADA website accessibility and knows how to make updates to your website to maintain compliance. This will ensure everyone working on your website is committed to making it accessible and reducing future risks.
Regularly Monitor and Update
Businesses should regularly monitor their website to ensure that it remains accessible. ADA website accessibility is an ongoing process. As you make changes to your website and web accessibility guidelines evolve, new accessibility issues may arise. It is crucial to address these promptly.
By developing a strategy for ADA website accessibility and liability now, businesses can protect themselves and their customers. Not only will this help companies to avoid potential legal issues, but it will also help ensure that all website visitors can access and use the website. In the long run, this will help businesses build trust and loyalty with their customers and improve their overall customer experience.
ADA website accessibility is not just a legal requirement, but it is also an opportunity to reach a large and growing market. By developing a strategy for accessibility now, businesses can avoid costly lawsuits, protect their reputation, and increase their website traffic. Investing in accessibility is an investment in the future of your business.
At 216digital, we understand developing a strategy for ADA Website accessibility and liability can be a beast of a project. So, why let web accessibility hijack your development backlog with all the competing website enhancements that could add value to your business? 216digital can help develop a strategy to integrate WCAG 2.1 compliance into your development roadmap on your terms. To learn more about how the ADA experts at 216digital can help build an ADA WCAG 2.1 compliance strategy to achieve ongoing, real-world accessibility on your terms, schedule an ADA Strategy Briefing.