Why Your Website Should Meet Accessibility Standards (Even If It Is Not Required To Do So)
If you are a Federal agency, or if your organization receives funding from the Federal government, your website is required to meet certain accessibility guidelines known as the 508 Standards. These standards, which have just undergone their biggest update in nearly 20 years, “apply to information and communication technology…that can be accessed by the public and employees with disabilities.”
Digital ADA compliance is not just for Federally funded websites, however. Whether or not accessibility on a site is mandated, there are significant benefits to ensuring your website is accessible for all visitors. Here are 5 reasons why your site should meet accessibility standards, even if it is not required to do so.
1. Better Accessibility Improves Everyone’s Experience
The easier a website is to use, the more likely it is that people will use it (and the better chance that site has at success). By making sure your website can be used by visitors with a disability, you actually make it easier to use for everyone. That is a “win” for all parties involved.
2. It’s Good For Business
According to the US Census Bureau, about 19 percent of the population have some kind of disability. This includes about 8.1 million people who have difficulty seeing, 2 million of whom are blind. These statistics show there are a lot of potential customers your site may be turning away if it does not work for them, and lost business is obviously bad for your company’s bottom line. By creating a site that is accessible, you minimize the risk that these customers will take their business elsewhere.
3. To Protect Your Company From Possible Legal Troubles
Your website may not be legally required to adhere to accessibility standards based on the criteria of being Federally-funded, but that does not mean you are free from potential legal troubles. For example, back in 2005, Target.com was singled out for being inaccessible for visually impaired users. After a series of legal setbacks, Target eventually settled the case, paying nearly $10 million dollars in the process (not counting their legal fees).
For a more recent example of Digital ADA Compliance, you can look at the case of the grocery store chain, Winn Dixie. This case was actually the first trial in the history of the ADA about an inaccessible website (the other cases, like the Target one, were settled before they went to trial). In June of 2017, the judge in the Winn Dixie case found that the chain violated Title III of the ADA, because their website could not be used by a customer who was blind and who accessed the site using screen reader software.
In both of these cases, the company in question would not have fallen under the “Federally-funded” umbrella mandating compliance with the 508 Standards, but as the recent case with Winn Dixie certainly shows, that does not matter when it comes to the ADA. If you want to avoid similar legal troubles, it is time to make sure your website can be used by all customers.
4. To Prepare For a Future Where Accessibility Is Mandated for All Sites
The vast majority of websites do not fall into the category of Federally-funded sites, which are the only ones mandated to comply with the 508 Standards, but that may not be the case forever. Between the changes in Digital ADA that cases like the aforementioned Winn Dixie one could spark, to continuing updates to Section 508 Standards and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), it is likely that all sites will be required to meet a certain benchmark for accessibility in the not-so-distant future. Meeting those standards before the deadline will save you from playing catchup once the clock starts ticking.
5. It’s The Right Thing To Do
While any of the above reasons should be a compelling argument to ensure your site is accessible, there is one final argument to do so – because it is the right thing to do. That alone should be reason enough to make your site accessible for all.
Are you interested in learning more about Digital ADA Compliance and what your site may need to do to meet these changing standards? Join us on Thursday, July 20th in Providence, RI for “Digital ADA Compliance – Why Your Website Needs to Comply."