What are the benefits to better web Accessibility?
Making your website more accessible to everyone will not only improve your users’ experience, but also reduce your legal risk, increase search engine findability, give you a competitive edge, and lower your costs. Here are the top six reasons why embracing accessibility best practices is a good idea for your digital experiences:
- Broader reach: If a company doesn’t implement good accessibility practices, they risk excluding a significant portion of their potential audience. For example, individuals with visual impairments may not be able to access a website that has poor color contrast or relies solely on images to convey information. On the other hand, if a company implements accessibility best practices, they can reach a wider audience and make their content available to individuals with disabilities. This can lead to increased revenue, greater engagement, and improved brand reputation.
- Compliance and reduction of legal risk: Failure to comply with accessibility laws and regulations can result in lawsuits and reputational damage. For example, in 2019, the pizza chain Domino’s lost a case in which they argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) did not apply to their website. By contrast, when companies prioritize accessibility, they can avoid costly lawsuits and demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity.
- Findability & SEO: Websites that are accessible often have better semantic HTML, well-organized copy, and contextual metadata, which can improve their search engine optimization (SEO) and findability. For example, adding alt text to images can help search engines better understand the content of a website and improve its rankings. This can lead to increased traffic, more conversions, and greater visibility.
- User experience and usability: When companies prioritize accessibility, they can create a better user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. For example, improving the color contrast on a website can make it easier for all users to read text. By addressing accessibility issues, companies can also improve the usability of their website, which can lead to increased engagement, improved conversion rates, and higher customer satisfaction.
- Competitive edge: By making their website more accessible than their competitors, companies can differentiate themselves in the market and expand their audience. For example, if two online retailers offer similar products but one has a more accessible website, individuals with disabilities are more likely to choose the accessible retailer. This can lead to increased revenue, greater customer loyalty, and improved brand reputation.
- Cost savings: Addressing accessibility issues early in the design and development process can prevent expensive retrofits or lawsuits. For example, if a company builds an inaccessible website and is later sued for discrimination, they may need to pay for expensive retrofits to make the website accessible. By contrast, if they prioritize accessibility from the start, they can avoid these costs and create a more cost-effective solution. Additionally, a more accessible website can cut costs for businesses by enabling more customers to complete tasks and transactions online, rather than needing one-to-one support.
- Reputation: Prioritizing accessibility demonstrates a company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which can build a positive reputation with customers, employees, and partners. By creating a more inclusive environment, companies can build trust, loyalty, and a positive brand reputation.
Why do so many companies struggle to implement accessible sites?
If accessibility is so important, why do so many companies struggle to implement accessible sites Accessibility can be challenging for enterprises due to various reasons.
One of the main challenges faced by enterprises is the multiple versions and levels of compliance of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). As technologies have become more complex, the WCAG has evolved over time, resulting in two different versions and three levels of conformance, each with their own set of testable criteria. This can create confusion for enterprises, who may struggle to determine which version and level of WCAG they need to comply with.
Another challenge is the unclear and sometimes conflicting standards within the WCAG. The WCAG is a technical guide, which can be incomplete, circuitous, and confusing, making it difficult for enterprises to ensure compliance. It can be tough for enterprises to know exactly how to apply certain success criteria to their unique website. Even if they are vigilant and good-intentioned in their efforts to ensure compliance, they may still carry a risk of not being able to meet all 38 success criteria listed in the WCAG. Implementing an item in the manner outlined in the WGAC might create another accessibility challenge, create a usability issue, or conflict with brand standards.
Organizational constraints can also pose a challenge to accessibility in enterprises. Even when companies set bold goals to make their sites more inclusive, the time and expense of identifying and correcting accessibility issues can be a barrier. Technology roadmaps are often jam-packed, and accessibility fixes may not be high priority. Older legacy platforms with “delicate” code bases may require complete refactoring, which can be a costly and time-consuming process. Moreover, team members need to be upskilled to learn how to conduct audits and implement fixes, which can further increase the time and cost involved.