3 Business Consequences of Ignoring Web AccessibilityApril 5, 2022 No Comments
Featured article by Jeff Broth
Image Source: Freepik
Whether you’re the owner of a small business or the CEO of a global enterprise, the importance of designing and building an accessible website should be respected, understood, and prioritized. Unfortunately, many websites are built with practices that fail to prioritize accessibility, since over 90% of websites are now considered inaccessible to those who use assistive technology.
Budget constraints, time pressures, a lack of awareness, and prioritizing visual aesthetics above everything else are the most typical causes of low levels of web accessibility. While some of these issues are understandable, they are not valid excuses for neglecting web accessibility, which, as we will explain, have consequences.
What is web accessibility?
Generally speaking, web accessibility refers to the degree to which users with disabilities can access, browse, and use a website. This considers differing abilities levels when it comes to things such as sight, hearing, touch, movement, cognition, and communication. Users with vision impairments, for example, may use screen readers to explore a web page, while hearing-impaired users may rely on transcriptions and captions.
The WCAG 2.1 is the set of universally accepted guidelines that define how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities, since the Americans with Disabilities Act does not state specific guidelines for websites. These guidelines recommend a variety of amendments that business owners must follow to improve the perceivability, operability, legibility, and robustness of their website and its content. The most common web elements that cause accessibility issues include:
- Poor color contrasts – Content that does not use the appropriate color contrast ratio will be difficult to view for anyone with even a slight vision impairment or color blindness.
- Missing alt text – Those with hearing impairments rely on captions to understand video and audio content. Unfortunately, many websites fail to include alt text and video captions on their sites.
- Poor website structure – Users who use screen readers or other input methods other than a mouse may find it difficult to navigate a poorly structured webpage. As a result, they may be unable to progress past the homepage or become stuck in a certain section of the page.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at some main consequences of running an inaccessible website for your business.
Increased risk of litigation
Lawsuits over digital accessibility are on the rise. In fact, 2021 was a record year for web accessibility litigation, likely due to increased awareness surrounding topics such as equality and inclusion. Now that precedent has been set, businesses of all shapes and sizes are in the crosshairs of plaintiff law firms, meaning that those who do not put adequate measures in place to cater to the needs of their disabled users may find themselves at risk of litigation procedures.
It goes without saying that being on the receiving end of such proceedings is far from ideal, mainly due to the hefty fines and penalties that you will incur, such as attorney time (or fees for outside counsel), filing fees, and discovery costs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), web accessibility violations could subject your firm to penalties of up to $75,000 for a first violation. Thus, there is certainly a financial incentive to bring your website up to compliance with the WCAG 2.1.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults in the United States (about 26% of the population) have a disability. You are missing out on the potential to connect with many of these people who may be looking for your product or service if you do not have an accessible website. If your competitors prioritize accessibility on their sites. In that case, they will have a substantial competitive edge over you, since they will have open access to a market that you have overlooked.
Negative PR and damage to your brand
The public perception of your brand will determine a large part of your company’s success. Excluding people with disabilities is a definite way to damage your brand and attract bad press. Consider a brick-and-mortar establishment that refuses to provide a handicapped ramp or specialized restrooms. Before long, they’d be receiving complaints and lawsuits left, right, and center, and their name would be dragged through the mud for failing to provide for the disabled.
You must think of your website in the same way. If your website has serious accessibility concerns, it will be difficult for people with disabilities to access information and contact your business. This reflects poorly on your company’s brand and reputation. Conversely, being shown to make efforts towards accessibility and inclusion can positively impact your brand and may help improve your image.
All businesses, regardless of the products/services they provide or the industry in which they operate, should prioritize web accessibility. Access to the internet is a right that everyone is entitled to. While the consequences we have highlighted underscore the risks of an inaccessible website, the flip side of the scenario is also true. If you take the time to put provisions in place, you’ll have access to a vast and often overlooked market sector, which could lead to new revenue streams for your company.
Web accessibility is not just a noble goal to pursue, but it also makes sense from an economic one.