How Website Accessibility Affects Your Brand’s Reputation and Success
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability, and the World Health Organization has detailed in its World Report on Disability that 15% of the planet’s population struggles with some form of disability. With a focus on UK consumers specifically, the most recent (2019) Click-Away Pound Report research found that more than four million people in that country “…abandoned a retail website because of the barriers they found,” at a cost to retailers and other sellers of £17.1 billion ($22.3 billion).
If your business is online, it may experience injury even beyond such missed sales opportunities if those who are disabled can’t access its website. If it was not built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, the result could be legal proceedings, including settlements and penalties.
Clearly then, a brand should consider website accessibility to increase credibility and also generate more sales and revenue.
Let’s further explore the consequences of failing to do so.
Low brand engagement
Accessible By Design found in a survey that individuals with visual, hearing, cognitive and speech disabilities responded negatively to businesses that failed at accessibility and usability. 40% of people surveyed had an adverse action directed at such a business (wouldn’t purchase from the brands nor recommend them to others), and 81% gave a generally negative response — felt disconnected from the brands and assumed they were unreliable.
These negative responses can be a company’s nightmare experience — just one of the reasons why a commitment to accessibility is a priority in embracing overall Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Related: Why Your Website Needs to be Accessible to Everyone
The U.S. Department of Justice’s latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were released in 2017, deeming ADA adherence essential for websites in two categories: those owned or funded by state or local governments and those owned by businesses.
Major ADA website lawsuits can be filed against businesses known as “places of public accommodation,” according to the law. Cases concerning associated websites, including private ones, are known as Title III claims. (Suits against government websites are classified as Title II claims).
Aside from the expense (including legal fees) of dealing with the suits themselves, failure to comply with ADA compliance standards could expose you to public relations issues and the need to rebuild your website entirely.
Multidimensional benefits of accessibility
Broadly accessible design makes it easy for users to interact with your website. Most importantly, it makes it convenient for people with and without disabilities to access it. One compelling analogy might be a showroom within a well-structured and easy-to-access space: visitors won’t then need undo attention from showroom workers to provide description and direction. Good site accessibility gives access to information and interaction for people with or without special needs.
Related: Yes, AI Can Make Company Websites Accessible to All
How to meet compliance standards
A good starting point is reviewing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines International Standards (WCAG), which encompass making content more accessible to people with disabilities. A new draft is scheduled to be completed by June 2022, but in the meantime you can access the new success criteria (additional detail can be found in the Conformance Section of WCAG), which is categorized at three levels: A, AA and AAA. Not all sites are required to pass the last and most vigorous standard, but it is recommended that a business site achieve both AA classification and be 100% ADA compliant.
Lastly, upon completing your site build with compliance in mind, you can assess it by using an Accessibility Checker to identify any issues that make it hard for the disabled community to browse.
ADA compliance will make your brand inclusive and accessible to all users and potential customers. It gives your business a competitive advantage and offers a better user experience across all browsing platforms. This reduces the risk of lawsuits, increases your audience and builds your company reputation.