5 Reasons to Make Your Website Accessible Now Apr 06, 2017

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Have you been thinking about making your website more accessible, but you just haven’t found the motivation? Well, the procrastination ends now! Making your website accessible needs to be standard in 2017. New websites should be built with accessibility, and older/existing websites need to be brought up to code. This post is meant to inspire you to get moving and get your site more accessible!

Reason 1: It REALLY Helps People

If you think that only a small part of the population is going to benefit from the accessibility modifications you make to your site, you’re wrong. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) website explains, “About 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning.”[1] There are literally millions of people across the globe who experience disability. This large group of people often needs assistance to interact with the internet, and that assistance needs to be readily available to them. Lots of people use this example, and it’s a clear representation so I’ll say it here too, you wouldn’t build a building without a wheelchair ramp. Why is alright for your website to be inaccessible?

That figure does not take into account temporary disabilities that we all experience from time to time. Whether it’s getting your eyes dilated at an eye exam that makes it tough for you to see, you break your dominant arm, or some other unfortunate issue that causes you to interact with the world in a modified way, temporary disabilities can impact anyone at any time. These people also benefit greatly from website accessibility tools. While they do not use them on a daily basis, they’ll certainly be glad they have the option once they need a little help.

Reason 2: It Keeps You Out of Legal Trouble

Lawsuits are constantly being filed against businesses that do not comply with WCAG 2.0 regulations. When a website is inaccessible, the site owners open themselves up to legal problems. You can’t say you were not warned because the WCAG 2.0 guidelines exist for a reason. There’s a full UserWay blog post that can give you a solid overview of this issue, The Anatomy of a Web Accessibility Lawsuit, but here is a summary if you don’t have time to read that post.

The cost of an accessibility lawsuit is big and extends far beyond just the penalty, which can range from The penalty for not meeting accessibility standards can be in the range of $50k to $100k.[2] You will also be expected to hire a lawyer, establish a substantial defense, locate and pay for an expert technical witness to prove your site meets the standards, and more. It takes much less time and frankly a lot less effort to just comply with the WCAG 2.0 standards in the first place. Why go through a real life courtroom drama? If you think these lawsuits are rare, then you should do some digging. Brands like Target.com, Weight Watchers, and H&R Block have all gotten hit with accessibility lawsuits.  

Reason 3: It Can Boost Your Business

Like I said, there is a huge segment of the population that is either currently living with a disability or will experience a permanent or temporary disability in the future. These are online shoppers, potential clients, and eager customers who are often blocked from being able to use websites that are just inaccessible. This means they will take their business elsewhere and you will lose out.

The Retail Gazette blog shows just how much money is on the line, “UK retailers could be missing out on online sales estimated at £11.75 billion a year because their web sites fail to consider the needs of people with disabilities, a new report says.”[3] Billions of dollars lost in the UK alone just because sites are inaccessible. It simply does not make good business sense to close your digital doors to amazing customers just because you do not feel like making a few accessibility modifications. If the fear of getting sued does not make you want to update your site, maybe the reality of the business you are missing out on will.

Reason 4: It Can Boost Your Public Image

I’ve written about this before, and you see it come across pretty strongly in our weekly news wrap-up blog posts. When anyone, be it a business, park, person, or city, does not take accessibility into account they are subject to some fairly negative press. While huge brands like the Kardashians have gotten hit with accessibility lawsuits (head over to our post, All Press Isn’t Good Press: WCAG 2.0 Violations Can Tarnish Celebrity Image, for more on that) it has become clear that accessibility suits make brands look like they simply don’t care.

If you read about a bus that won’t make room for a disabled passenger, aren’t you outraged? The same goes for a lot of users who read about inaccessible websites. These sites are blocking users when there is a pretty clear way to make a path to accessibility. Public image can be everything, especially in the age of social media. An accessibility blunder can easily be shared over and over again tarnishing your reputation across groups of people that you want to impress. Creating a positive accessibility image works in much the same way. While it’s sad that awesome examples of accessibility are so rare, it is true. When someone sees a great inclusive website, especially if they have a disability, it can be a refreshing surprise. I know that I recommend inclusive brands and sites to friends over ones that ignore the issue or do the bare minimum. Consider your customers, they’ll appreciate it.

Reason 5: It Comes with a New Tax Incentive

That’s right! Recently, the IRS announced that certain small businesses might qualify for a tax incentive when they make their website accessible. This is fairly new, so it remains to be seen just how it will work for people. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility blog called this to my attention in their post, IRS Will Pay $5,000 For Website Accessibility. The post explains how businesses can qualify, “To qualify, your business must have annual revenues of less than $1 million and employ fewer than 30 full-time employees.”[4] Ok, so you need to be a smaller business to qualify, but it’s still a great incentive! Getting a maximum of $5,000 back for something you should be doing anyway is a pretty sweet deal. Think of the benefits, increased business, no lawsuits, and now a tax credit on top of that? The money you will save, and potentially make, is really starting to add up, isn’t it?

Hopefully, that will give you the motivation you need to start assessing the problems with your website. Remember, if you get stuck on this part, you can always run some user testing to get real and actionable feedback on ways to improve your website. The more effort you put into your site, the more it will help your users. You can also consult with your web designer (if you have ties to one) who will be able to help give pointers or even make the improvements you need. Some web designers even specialize in accessibility, and they’re more than happy to get your site in order.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t really expect to make a few tiny tweaks and magically have a site that works for everyone. Patience and effort are the key ingredients to ensuring your site works the best for the largest number of people. Listen to your users, consider their abilities, and create a site that is useful for all. If you are inspired to get going now, why not install the UserWay widget on your site right now? It is free, and you won’t need to modify your site’s code. It is pretty much the easiest way to get a jumpstart on making your site more accessible, so what are you waiting for?

What motivated you to bring improve your website’s accessibility? Was it a specific user request, fear of a lawsuit, or something else? Share your motivation below and give other site owners more reasons to create an accessible internet!

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