Coming to terms with website accessibility
If you haven’t heard the buzz about website accessibility lately, then I have to say that you must be living under a rock. Especially if you have a website. Once you became aware of how it affects your business, you probably were overwhelmed very quickly.
And if you are a small business or organization, you probably decided it wasn’t something you needed to really worry about. Or do you?
I know I was super overwhelmed when I began studying what was required to get my website accessible. And then I realized it is an ongoing matter. Website accessibility starts in the planning stages and continues on as you add content and offer more services. Even videos and the documents that users downloaded need to be accessible.
So don’t sweep this important issue under the rug because you are overwhelmed.
Consider these four statements and find out how it affects your business.
1. I’m not legally required to have an accessible website.
This really depends on your organization, as well as the country you are in and where you offer use of your website.
There are definitely some businesses and organizations that are required to adhere to certain levels of accessibility standards. In the US, for example, if you take any form of federal funding or grants, your website must meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was added in 1998, which included electronic and information technology. (For information in countries other than the US, checkout Website Accessibility Initiative.)
If you aren’t taking any federal money, then it’s kinda complicated. Yes, under The Americans Disability Act (ADA) Title III, websites are required to be accessible, but there is no set standard or level of requirement for that as of yet.
So, whether you are legally required to meet a certain standard, or you are at the unclear level of requiring accessibility, you still need to make sure people with disabilities have a way to access your website. If nothing else, let them know you are working on improving their experience.
2. I’m a DIY website builder. I don’t have to do that.
Hold on there! Just because you do it yourself, doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Even when you do a DIY project on your house, you need to get permits and meet certain requirements (in most cases). But even if you aren’t worried about those things, think about the improvements it would make on your site.
Having a website that is accessible makes the search engine gods happy. If you focus on accessibility best practices, then your google ranking will naturally improve. A well planned and well-built website will improve speed and user experience, which will in turn improve your SEO.
3. My target audience doesn’t include people with disabilities.
Or does it? Disabilities aren’t always diagnosed. Many of them are temporary. A broken arm is a temporary disability. Moms of babies often only have one arm available for using your site. Many times, people use closed captioning on videos even when they are able to hear. Some of your users are probably color blind. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you aren’t considering these people in your user base, then you are missing out on a good chunk of your audience. Some of the steps to take to fix this are pretty simple and could go a long way toward including a wider audience.
4. It really isn’t that big a deal.
To each his own I guess. But consider the ethical implications of ignoring accessibility standards. 1.2 billion people are disabled. That’s a big deal.
If you owned a physical place of business, wouldn’t you feel compelled to include a ramp where there are stairs? You’d actually be legally required to do that under the same law that covers website accessibility.
You probably know someone who’s disabled. Would you be ok excluding that person from finding out about all of your services? Striving to include people with disabilities is necessary, it’s good for your website, and it’s just the right thing to do.
You can do this!
If you can relate to any of these statements, don’t get discouraged. There are some simple steps you can take to get going in the right direction. It isn’t an all or nothing project. Before you know it you’ll see improvements and more people will be able to access your website.
And you’ll feel better for doing the right thing.
Click the button for a downloadable checklist with some simple instructions to help you get started. Once you give that a go and you feel that you need to do more, I suggest you begin with a website accessibility audit. You can either use that audit to fix the issues yourself, or you can hire a professional to do it for you. Either way, we all should be striving to make our world more accessible for everyone.