A focus on making businesses accessible is the right thing to do from both a social and moral standpoint. But it goes well beyond physical modifications.
Working to meet standards that have been set in the digital space helps to include everyone in the experiences we create for our clients.
From the perspective of your business and its goals, making digital accessibility a priority is also important. The data show that accessible websites have better search result rankings and a wider reach.
By making your website accessible, you not only widen your audience and include people with disabilities, but you also improve the overall experience for all users.
To be “accessible,” a site must provide all means possible for all users to access any available information. It must leverage types of navigation and sensory channels beyond sight and touch, such as sound and voice command.
Over the past four years, there has been a spike in accessibility lawsuits. Title III suits filed in federal court, alleging that sites lacked assistive technology and so prohibited access, hit 2,258 cases in 2018—a jump of 177 percent from 2017, according to an analysis by law firm Seyfarth Shaw.
The threat of legal action is real for businesses that do not follow the accessibility guidelines.
Best Practices for Accessible Content
For a website to be truly accessible to all people, it must be able to leverage screen-reading software to convert words on the site to audio translation. Proper HTML document structure is important. The headings on pages should be organized hierarchically and logically so these content translations make sense.
Here are a few other requirements:
- Images should include descriptive text that conveys the meaning of each image, and that text should be easily converted into audio.
- Videos must have text descriptions and in-sync captions.
- A user should be able to navigate and interact with the site through tab controls via keyboard and voice, not just mouse.
- A site should not rely on color as the only way to differentiate between objects and interactions.
You can find more details on the requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. We recommend conforming at least with Level A—though Level AA is preferred.
The percentage of the 2018 website accessibility cases that were filed in just two states, New York (1,564 lawsuits) and Florida (576 lawsuits)
How to Evaluate Digital Properties for Accessibility
To understand if your site is compliant, it’s best to use a combination of manual and automated testing.
For things like checking contrast for text readability and seeing whether images on your site have the necessary descriptive text, you can run simple testing software. But you may have to validate manually that the text is appropriate for the image it’s describing.
The WAVE tool is a great way to see where you stand. It’s no guarantee of compliance and can give false positives, but in a matter of seconds it will give you a checklist for free.