As an SMB, you must have heard of website accessibility and ADA compliance for websites. However, very few small to medium-sized businesses truly know what compliance with accessibility laws for websites is all about. This is because the U.S. does not have concrete website accessibility laws, making it difficult for businesses and courts to determine what an accessible website should look like and how they can be compliant. This is why digital accessibility lawsuits are rising in the U.S.
While some countries have definite accessibility regulations and guidelines for websites, there is no international universal legal requirement to make a website or app work equally and be equally accessible for all.
With that said, if you learn about the history of the ADA, comply with website accessibility, and take a more proactive approach to designing an accessible website, it will help your business find success in the remainder of 2022 and beyond.
What Is Website Accessibility?
Website accessibility is about making a website’s content usable and accessible for everyone, regardless of disabilities. It is an essential aspect of user experience (UX) design as it promotes inclusivity. So, how do web developers achieve website accessibility?
They structure a website that can be read by electronic Braille devices and screen readers, using tiny, technical changes. For instance, adding “alt” text on all images allows screen readers to read the description of the image for visually-impaired website users. Without alt-text, such users will not be able to enjoy the visible elements of a website and might fail to convert into customers.
Access to Websites in Civil Rights
Several countries have laws that protect the civil rights of disabled individuals, but there are no universal website and web app accessibility laws. Even though the internet offers global access to data, education, and more, people with disabilities can face difficulties in terms of access to these resources and have to use special assistiing devices to access them.
Despite the use of technology in everyday life, people with various impairments are not able to use it readily. To prevent this from happening, there are standards in place to unify development and technology with universal protocols. These standards are known as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG.)
In the U.S. we have a policy, Section 508, that governs accessible digital design for education, government, and institutions tied to these fields. Meanwhile, federal websites are required to follow the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act.
Moreover, non-government-related websites are referred to as public or public sector entities, enabling the legal system to hear cases filed by persons with disabilities who cannot access a public business website. It is known as the ADA Title III, Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities.
However, it does not include online web applications or websites. If you are wondering whether your website should be accessible, consider your physical business and if it is legally required to meet ADA compliance. If it does, then your website should promote accessibility as well.
Understanding the History of Website Accessibility & Related Law in America
Even though the Department of Justice is expected to enforce the ADA on public websites, it declines to issue regulations. That said, ethically, courts favor the plaintiffs who cannot access a business as it does not accommodate their disability. It includes equal hiring as remote workers with a disability might require screen magnification, captions, and assistive devices.
In 1990, George Bush signed the ADA, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. ADA is meant to protect the rights of people with disabilities for access to government and state services, transportation, employment, and more.
In 1991, the Department of Justice issued its final rules for implementing Title II and III. Ecommerce websites and public mobile apps fall under Title III, meant to ensure compliance for businesses open to the public. Meanwhile, Section 508 falls under Title II, which applies to local and state government entities.
Since then, the government and Department of Justice have made several attempts to determine clear website accessibility mandates in accordance with ADA, but the attempts have not been fruitful. It is why ADA accessibility has become a moral choice in the U.S.
Design Your Website with Accessibility
Even though some lawsuits calling out business websites’ lack of accessibility were ruled baseless or ended up favoring the business, creating an accessible website is the right move. ADA compliance enables you to design your website for inclusion. Doing so will help you become a more valuable brand and improve your SERP ranking, conversions, customer service, revenue, and more.
An accessible website will give your small to medium-sized business the edge it needs to stand out. So, don’t let the lack of trained employees, inability to understand your target market, the expense of accessibility, and lack of knowledge keep you from benefitting from creating an inclusive website.
Why Does Web Accessibility Matter in 2022?
Here are some reasons why website accessibility matters in 2022 and why websites with accessibility will see success presently and in the future:
It Affects Many People & Processes
In today’s digital world, websites offer abundant data and ensure smooth daily operations for multiple industries, e-commerce, healthcare, government, etc. Businesses can lose yearly $6.9 billion in revenue if people with disabilities cannot access their websites. Moreover, 1 in 4 individuals in the U.S. live with a disability, so you will lose business if your website is not accessible.
We Are Increasingly More Reliant on Technology
As a result of the pandemic, digital services have experienced a sharp rise. Today, almost everyone relies on technology to fulfill many of their daily tasks. This trend, rooted in convenience, will continue down the line. If your website offers accessibility, you can cater to everyone regardless of their disability or impairment.
The Number of Lawsuits related to Website Accessibility Is Climbing
Lawsuits regarding website accessibility have been rising throughout the country. The threat of a lawsuit is a great reason to ensure ADA compliance for websites. However, ADA compliance should also be maintained since it’s the right thing to do to ensure inclusivity on your website.
New Compliance Standards Are on the Rise
Web accessibility standards continue to evolve. The ADA currently dictates compliance with WCAG 2.0 despite the fact that the latest version is 2.1. Moreover, WCAG 2.2 is scheduled to be released by September 2022, which means that the ADA might require you to comply with WCAG 2.1 or 2.2. Meanwhile, WCAG 3.0 was also announced and is supposed to be finalized in 2023.
The Bottom Line
The present is the time to promote ADA compliance for websites and ensure your website’s accessibility. You cannot afford to overlook inclusion as it will affect your business and your website’s user experience while landing you in legal trouble.
If you’re looking for reliable, low-cost ADA compliance solutions for your website, look no further than Boulevard. We can help you make your website accessible for everyone!