Have you ever thought about how surfing the Internet can be such a struggle for persons with disabilities (PWDs)? Like most people, perhaps you overlook how easily you can type with your keyboard, read web content, click call-to-action buttons, and more.
Even these simple actions can take immense effort for persons with motor, visual, cognitive, and other disabilities. Then it would help if you give web accessibility its much-needed attention.
Accessibility has become such an integral part of site development that PWDs and national governments are starting to keep industries liable for it.
Some entrepreneurs even know that accessibility can help them build their businesses up for success. With it, they can acquire more customers, traffic, and chances for sales and conversions.
That’s why, to build PWD-friendly sites that benefit your clients and their impaired customers, you need to be well-acquainted with the concept. Let’s start by looking at the “why” behind accessibility.
Context of Accessibility
Tim Berners-Lee, Director of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and creator of the World Wide Web, said: “The power of the Web is in its universality”. Access for everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
Berners-Lee says that the web is designed principally for everyone, no matter what their software, hardware, location, language, or ability is.
When the Web satisfies this intention, it becomes usable and accessible to people with various sight, movement, cognitive, and hearing abilities. However, the impact of disability completely changes on the Web.
After all, the Web means eliminating the interaction and communication barriers people deal with within the physical environment.
This means that your agency shouldn’t just focus on components in website building like responsive site design layout anymore, but incorporate accessible design that is all-inclusive for users of different disabilities.
When websites, apps, and other programs lack enabling features, designs, and technologies, they can put up barriers that exclude people from accessing the Web.
Social exclusion, though, isn’t what accessibility is about — but inclusion. Knowing social inclusion as essential, digital stakeholders, including your agency, can pursue web accessibility more intently and effectively.
To help your agency carry out your accessibility goals for your client’s site, here are three things you need to realize:
1. Owners of websites that aren’t accessible to PWDs can be sued.
Did you know that inaccessible websites can face steep penalties, demand letters, and, worse, rep-shattering lawsuits?
I’m not kidding.
This all has to do with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is all about helping PWDs attain equal opportunities. So if abled people can browse and consume content on a website easily, those with disabilities should also be able to do the same (among other things).
Even world-renowned brands and celebrities were unable to escape accessibility lawsuits and thousand-dollar fines and settlement expenses. A handful of these brands include Apple, Netflix, Beyoncé, Disney, Nike, and more.
Countries around the world are also beginning to implement web accessibility regulations for public industry sites to follow.
For one, the UK Web Accessibility Law allows legal mechanisms to hear cases filed by PWDs who can’t use public sector websites.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), for instance, says it has considered filing numerous lawsuits against inaccessible websites. When these accessibility complaints crop up, many companies would rather opt to implement the needed site modifications than risk being slapped with legal cases.
The lawsuits, along with tarnished reputations and other possible backlash, prove that web inaccessibility is too huge a risk to take.
As a digital agency, you can let your client save and allot his financial resources for more productive investments if you can build him an accessible website at the onset.
2. You can automate web accessibility
Achieving web accessibility often lies in the website’s coding. Developers often turn to the manual process as a primary fix for accessibility issues. This approach, however, can be painstakingly long, strenuous, and expensive — very expensive.
After all, it might take about six to ten months for a website to be fully accessible through manual coding — depending on how complicated the site is.
All this effort and resources, though, can go down the drain once the site updates and refreshes, you can lose all or some of your coding — which opens up compliance gaps.
You don’t need to settle for this approach. The good news is you can automate web accessibility using solutions like accessiBe. accessiBe is the first automated accessibility platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
It has applications that allow disabled users to adjust interface elements like color and content readability.
accesiBe also has backend functionalities that allow PWDs to activate screen readers, navigation panels, accessible printing, and others.
accessiBe’s AI is what powers these backend functionalities. It scans and studies the site hierarchy and inputs aria attributes, making your client’s site fully accessible within 48 hours.
It even refreshes its site analysis every 24 hours, especially when you add new or updated content. Amazing, right? accessiBe’s AI ensures you are fully compliant with the ADA round the clock.
With accessiBe, you save truckloads of time and effort and achieve site accessibility far more comprehensively than manual coding can.
3. Accessibility guidelines are in place
To direct web developers and digital agencies in designing accessible sites, the W3C created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The current version of the WCAG contains four accessibility principles, 14 guidelines, and 78 success criteria.
These principles include:
- Perceivable information and user interface (UI);
- Operable UI and navigation;
- Understandable information and UI; and
- Robust content and reliable interpretation.
To make sure you conform to the WCAG provisions, you need to audit your client’s website against all the criteria in the guidelines.
The WCAG even provides notes on what particular phrases mean, the techniques you can use to meet the guidelines, and even actions that lead to compliance failure.
It’s also important that you make sound decisions when selecting the conformance level you want to attain. The level you choose impacts your project timeline and resources, and the degree of protection your client can have from any violations.
To wrap it up
Realizing the value of web accessibility is among the first things you need to acquaint yourself with when building sites for your clients.
Knowing the risks of inaccessibility, robust platforms for automating accessibility, the existing related standards, and others, can go far in streamlining your web development projects and benefiting your clients.
Plus, with these insights, you can even build on your brand image as a trusted digital agency your clients can partner with in pursuing web accessibility.
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