Make Digital Accessibility a Priority in 2020
By Raegan Bartlo
Vice President, Communications
Who wouldn’t want to deliver a pizza to a blind man? Why would a company position itself to miss out on serving a broad community of potential customers, particularly those with disabilities? It wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) as that is bad business. However, many companies and organizations are not serving all the customers they can when their technology strategy leaves out digital accessibility.
Digital accessibility is the ability of a website, mobile application or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by all users of varied abilities, including those who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities. Applying digital accessibility is like translating your website into a different language, only this language supports people with visual, mobility, and even cognitive impairments.
Making digital accessibility a priority in 2020 can help you reach more customers, care for those customers, demonstrate your corporate social responsibility, and avoid potential lawsuits by customers with disabilities.
Protection from Potential Lawsuits
Taking a pro-active approach to digital accessibility can mitigate risk and protect your organization from potential lawsuits by customers with disabilities. In the United States, for example, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits related to digital accessibility totaled 10,206 by the end of November 2019 according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw. This exceeded the number in 2018 and continues a trend of explosive growth in these types of lawsuits in the United States.
On the heels of the Domino’s Pizza LLC v. Robles case in 2019 – where the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court’s decision that Domino’s, under the ADA, must make its website and mobile app accessible to people with disabilities – every business should expect ADA-related lawsuits for inaccessible digital content to continue to rise.
While we understand the desire for greater guidance from governments on web and mobile accessibility, there does exist an international set of practical guidelines for creating web accessibility – the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This framework offers companies and governments a strong foundation for delivering digital accessibility and has been around since 1999. The Department of Justice has recognized the WCAG guidelines as solutions in various consent decrees with private companies.
The European Union, United Nations, and Canada all recognize WCAG guidelines. Canada has even gone a step further. In Ontario, websites for many organizations have until January 1, 2021 to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA Web Accessibility Requirements. Failure to comply may result in daily fines of $50,000 and up for companies and organizations.
Unfortunately, many businesses and organizations, particularly small to medium sized enterprises, do not even know they have a digital accessibility problem until a lawsuit occurs. Many businesses don’t have the in-house expertise to understand how to comply with these guidelines. Therefore, seek out an accessibility partner that can determine your digital accessibility needs, fix any accessibility errors, and create a proactive plan for the future.
Serving More Customers & Reaching Underserved Communities
Adding a digital accessibility strategy to your 2020 business goals can be a strong competitive differentiator. Businesses can serve more customers and reach perhaps the largest underserved community in America – people with disabilities. And this is even better news for return on your investment.
Making websites, apps and digital content accessible is relatively inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of changing a physical location to make it ADA-compliant. What companies are not considering is the opportunity cost of not delivering digital accessibility.
People with disabilities represent a vast consumer market – according to the American Institutes of Research, the total disposable income for adults with disabilities is about $490 billion, which is similar to other significant market segments, such as African Americans ($501 billion) and Hispanics ($582 billion).
It’s that simple – increased digital accessibility for all consumers translates into increased revenue potential for businesses.
Demonstrate Social Responsibility
Socially-responsible companies are proven to be at least as profitable – and frequently more profitable – than their conventional competitors. Paying attention to the social responsibility is good for business. According to recent research, 90% of Americans said they are more likely to trust brands that back social causes, and 66% of people ages 18 to 34 said they were more likely to desire working for a company that supports ethical and social causes or charity than those that don’t.
Accessible Design is Good Design
Caring for customers through digital accessibility demonstrates an organization’s willingness to go beyond ADA compliance. There’s a pernicious myth that designing a website for accessibility hurts its visual attractiveness. But this perception is based on old technology limitations when text-only web design was often considered the best way to achieve accessibility.
Today, accessible websites can be rich with images and videos. Further, the best practices of web accessibility align perfectly with SEO best practices, where properly categorized and structured information and descriptive content improve a website’s ranking. It’s an easy win-win for website users and people with disabilities
Stephen Hawking once said, “Without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible.”
Remember, a modern convenience for most digital users is a necessity for others. Be sure you’re serving all the customers you possibly can by adding digital accessibility to your 2020 tech strategy.
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