In this digital age, everyone (including people with disabilities) wants to be connected to the web and access online content with ease. But not all businesses, products, and services are designed with accessibility in mind. That’s precisely why the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) came into being.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Thus, web accessibility is not merely a strategic choice for modern businesses; it is a sine qua non for anyone who wants to avoid being slapped with a website accessibility lawsuit.
An increasing number of individuals are suing businesses, accusing them of non-inclusive and discriminatory. This is because they find it tough to consume content and interact with elements on their sites. In fact, the failure of businesses to make accessible websites is leading to an increasing number of website accessibility lawsuits each year.
Such lawsuits have terrible consequences. Not only do they attract heavy penalties and legal fees they also mar your reputation, causing you to lose your customers. Here are a few proactive steps you can take to avoid website accessibility lawsuits.
1. Build a Culture of Accessibility
Creating a culture of accessibility will not only improve your brand image but also position you as an inclusive and anti-discriminatory organization. Here’s how you can encourage a culture of accessibility in your firm and mitigate the risk of facing accessibility lawsuits.
1.1 – Refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Begin by listing down the changes that need to be done based on the accessibility guidelines shared by the World Wide Web Consortium. Clearly mention the set of requirements along with the tasks to be performed during the web design and development process.
Next, create a checklist for accessibility adherence, stating the responsibilities of each member of the website creation team (design, copy, and development). This will ensure company-wide adherence to accessibility guidelines.
1.2 – Run Regular Accessibility Audits
Performing an ADA website audit will help you measure your firm’s current state of accessibility so that you can take proactive measures to make your site ADA-compliant. Once the problem areas are identified, you can take effective measures to remediate those issues.
Use accessibility audit tools like WAVE, aXe, and SiteImprove to test your site for accessibility, broken links, HTML and CSS standards, and cross-browser compatibility.
1.3 – Offer Continuous In-House Training
ADA compliance is hardly a one-time affair for business sites. That’s because most websites are static, making it important for you to impart digital accessibility training to every person in the website development team.
Make sure every new member who joins your team is aware of the firm’s web accessibility goals and understands the WCAG well. Create a comprehensive training manual to address all compliance issues and maintain an accessible site.
Spreading awareness about accessibility will encourage its cultural adoption, mitigating the risk of being sued for a lack of digital accessibility. Use these tips to foster an accessibility culture in your firm.
2. Use the P.O.U.R. Principle
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offers a simple principle for making website content accessible to people with disabilities. It urges businesses to make their content Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Simply put, users should be able to easily access content, navigate the site, and interact with the elements on a website.
Here’s how you can create content that satisfies these criteria.
- Use assistive devices like screen readers to help your visually-impaired users access the site with ease. ChromeVox Classic Extension for Google Chrome and Fangs for Mozilla Firefox are the most popular ones.
- Include assistive features, such as Braille readers, screen magnifiers, and keyboard or joystick navigators for users who cannot use a mouse or other controls.
- Organize the site content properly and logically, enabling users to interpret the layout. Also, add captions for visual content and labels in forms.
3. Remember: Accessibility Features Benefits Everyone
Nearly 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability or the other. However, the balance 85 percent is also affected by situational limitations (broken arm, poor internet connection, or bright sunlight) at some point in time. These people will surely benefit from accessibility features on your website and will value your brand for it.
For instance, the text-to-speech or voice recognition feature can not only help a visually-impaired user but also a lady holding a baby. Similarly, adding captions on video content can help a person who’s hard of hearing and someone who’s in a noisy environment alike.
When designing your website or mobile app remember to include such accessibility features, giving a strong message that your business supports people’s right to use the internet and online services.
4. Hire a Digital Accessibility Consultant
Accessibility compliance is a tricky topic that not all businesses are able to understand. Therefore, it’s advisable to hire a consultant who has a rich experience in WCAG testing and remediation and knows the ADA standards like the back of their hands.
A web accessibility consultant can help you create a clear and comprehensive accessibility policy for your firm. Further, they can maintain the audit documents, record all actions taken by the business to comply with WCAG, ensuring that your site is ADA-compliant at all times.
5. Use Advanced Web Accessibility Tools
Disruptive technologies like AI are making website accessibility easy, quick, and affordable. For instance, AI-powered website accessibility tools can scan your website for issues and fix them, thereby reducing human error. These tools check the structural elements, the button functionalities, and the ease of navigation, helping you create an ADA-compliant site in no time.
Firms like HStern, Microsoft, Burger King, and BMW are already banking on these tools to make their sites accessible to people with disabilities and avert the risk of lawsuits.
The importance of digital accessibility is growing year on year. If your business website lacks digital accessibility, you are not only offending 15 percent of the global population but also attracting expensive lawsuits that can damage your reputation.
Use the tips and tricks shared in this post to make your website accessible to people with disabilities, boosting your firm’s reputation while keeping lawsuits at bay.