When the COVID-19 pandemic began in late 2019, not many people could imagine how much it would affect everyday life. Many companies had no choice but to shift operations and sales online to contain the rapid spread of the virus.
Although website accessibility was a growing conversation before, the quick migration to work online accelerated the need and awareness of digital accessibility. While accessible digital content has become more important, many businesses either don’t take it seriously or don’t understand how to make their content more accessible.
AudioEye recently conducted an accessibility myths survey to better understand the viewpoints and perceived challenges business owners, website designers and developers face when attempting to create more accessible websites and comply with accessibility guidelines. Given that more than a quarter of the American population lives with a disability, accessible content in a digital world is more critical than ever for bottom-line growth and inclusivity.
A majority of those AudioEye surveyed describe themselves as being somewhat or very familiar with website accessibility. In contrast, more than half of the website designers and developers lack confidence in their understanding of digital accessibility. This survey set out to debunk some of the most commonly held digital accessibility myths.
What did respondents say?
From the survey, 85% of leaders said they are aware of what website accessibility is, compared to less than 57% of managers and just over 50% of web designers or developers understand digital accessibility.
Awareness is a widespread issue, but so is the understanding of how to make a website accessible. Across all job titles, the most common barriers were cost, with 74% noting that as a concern, time at 70%, and nearly 67% citing compliance with laws as a concern.
What does website accessibility mean?
Website accessibility can make your website or any digital content accessible to everyone, irrespective of their ability. It is intended to allow all users equal enjoyment of digital content regardless of disabilities like neurological disorders, motor control difficulties and visual impairment, among others.
There are several guidelines for digital accessibility, the most notable is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The second is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), have become the global standard for website accessibility and the benchmark for measuring a website’s level of ADA compliance.
Despite detailed guidelines, many organizations and businesses websites still do not meet these standards. As a result, lawsuits regarding violations of the WCAG provisions increased 23% and 25% in 2020 and 2019, respectively
Lawsuit trends in 2020
As mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to shift their operations online, which meant that many people had to work from home to avoid physical contact associated with coronavirus spread.
However, many people with different disabilities have been unable to work from home or perform basic tasks such as ordering products from online stores, contributing to the acceleration in lawsuits.
What can you do to make your website more accessible? If you are operating an online business of any kind, your main objective should be to reach everyone regardless of their abilities. There are tools and resources that can help with website design and regulation education.
Tips to make a website more accessible:
1. Create images with alt tags: These are brief descriptions of images used on a website. Although most users may not see the descriptions, individuals using screen readers depend on them to understand what’s contained in the images on your website.
2. Make it easy for users to navigate your website: Try to use a consistent navigation system across all pages, which includes how visitors move from one page to another and the type of icons you use.
3. Avoid using content that can trigger physical reactions: Almost 700 children required hospital treatment after playing Pokemon. As a result, game console requirements changed to have photosensitive seizure warnings. Certain people are susceptible to seizures when exposed to intense and rapid lights.
4. Carry out regular audits to ensure that your website is WCAG compliant: WCAG standards are aimed at making the internet accessible to everyone with guidelines for authors, website owners and developers. There are the levels of conformance that touch on four categories of accessibility measure. These include making website content perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
Your website must be compliant all the time, not only to ensure everyone is able to access information from your site, but also to protect from potential lawsuits against you and your business.
The best way to avoid such is to conduct frequent ADA audits on your website to find out if you are indeed complying with WCAG directives or not. Such audits will reveal areas or information on your website that people with disabilities cannot easily access.
After that, you can work closely with your developer to ensure that all issues are fixed for compliance purposes.
Bottom line of accessibility
Website accessibility is a growing concern across the world as businesses continue the online migration and digital transformation. As more and more people continue to access the web, business owners, authors and developers should ensure that everyone can easily consume their content.
Dominic Varacalli is the President of AudioEye, a SaaS company offering a unique hybrid solution that makes digital content accessible to individuals with disabilities. He has extensive experience straddling product and engineering teams both at his own startups as well as large, multinational companies, leading Citibank mobile product, Tagback, xTrends, serving as director at Kroger Digital, and most recently leading product and operations as a founding partner at Kickstand.