Is web accessibility your number one priority in 2020?
Here are 5 reasons why it should be!

One of the fastest-growing issues in the legal and tech fields over the past three years has been website accessibility for the impaired. For anyone observing trends in digital technology, this should come as no surprise.

Website accessibility brought with it a whole host of benefits and incentives which go beyond just avoiding being sued, digital accessibility has evolved from a moral duty and a social commitment to one of the principles of modern marketing.

What are the benefits of implementing web accessibility? Are you in jeopardy when your company’s website is not accessible? How can your business benefit from being digitally accessible?

Below you will discover the top 5 reasons why not having an accessible website is a risk not worth taking and an opportunity far too big to miss for any business today. Here they are.

1. Compliance with present-day guidelines

Law

The main reasons why website accessibility is important to a company today—the legal exposure of not being accessible.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been established for over three decades. Although it doesn’t mention websites anywhere, Title III of the ADA has been interpreted by U.S. courts and acknowledged by the Department of Justice in late 2018 to apply to websites.

In January 2017, the U.S. Access Board enacted a ruling revising the standards covered by Section 508 of the federal law known as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It incorporated and selected international standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to be applied to websites, software, and electronic documents. This not only influences federal agencies but also all businesses and all digital communication within a federal agency.

Lawsuits regarding claims on web accessibility began to spike in 2015, a trend that does not seem to be subsiding.

Research has shown that over 260 lawsuits were filed during 2016. In 2017, that number increased to 430 lawsuits in just the first half of the year.  That number unexpectedly doubled to 814 by the end of Q3 of 2017. 2018 brought thousands of cases all across the United States, with Florida and New York topping the list. There was an increase of 177% in 2017 with 2258 lawsuits, both individual and class action, filed by blind or visually compromised plaintiffs.

These numbers only reflect lawsuits filed in courts of law. It is difficult to quantify them as they never become part of the public record, it is generally accepted among experts that only 5% of these legal claims make it to trial, meaning that 40,000 demand letters remain outside of the courtroom. In 2019 those numbers tripled.

2019 saw several reported cases involving many well-known brick and mortar and online companies, most of the lawsuits filed in courts involved SMB and mid-market companies. One of the most publicized cases was when Emily Fuller, who is visually impaired, sued 175 businesses because their sites were not ADA compliant. In all of the cases, she claimed that the websites did not work with her screen reader.

2. The cost of getting sued

Experts call it the wave of “corporate extortion”. Business owners are being advised to take a serious look at their websites and ensure that their digital presence is accessible to all users.  Businesses are facing monetary penalties if they do not convert their site to being fully compliant.

In cases where both parties agree to settle, the average settlement is set at a minimum of $20,000. If the case is lost in court, the penalty can be up to $55,000. Bear in mind this excludes the cost of attorney fees then paying the plaintiff and after all, that having to redesign the website to become compliant within a matter of days. Given these numbers, it’s clear that the cost of not being compliant can be devastating, even for a mid-market company with a decent budget.

3. Expanding your potential audience

Disabled Person in a Wheelchair

The benefits are far greater than you think when you expand your potential web audience. Today 1 out of every 4 people have accessibility issues while using websites, installing accessibility access can help your business grow by making the site navigable for all users, expanding your website’s audience.

An accessible site allows the content, products, and services to be available to a wider range of people besides users with disabilities, including the elderly with age-related disabilities.

By ignoring these issues, a lack of accessibility can cut off your business from large swaths of potential customers. This means that your company will be turning your back on 20% of the world’s population—or 1.3 billion people—this number continues to grow.

As a case study, take the typical visually impaired user. He probably uses a screen reading software to navigate through sites. All of these assistive devices rely on various code structures and standards of the site’s code to determine the context and structure of the website page.

A website must be pre-programmed for it to be compatible with this reader software. A site that is not set up for a screen reader is closed off to a large segment of visually impaired viewers, as 71% of disabled users will click away from a website that they find difficult to use.

Bear in mind that as the “baby boomer generation” ages, a big opportunity thus arises placing age-related disabilities on the radar of digital accessibility and generating new audiences who appreciate an accessible digital experience.

4. It boosts your SEO efforts

An often overlooked point to consider is how accessibility affects website visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs) and a site’s overall SEO rating. 

An important factor for a site’s SEO status is providing a good user interface (UI) as it affects the amount of time users spend on your website interacting with your pages. An ADA compliant website is, easier to navigate, no matter the user’s disabilities, and goes hand-in-hand with enhancing the user’s experience and site usability. It enables users to experience more extensive, comfortable and practical navigation, ultimately helping the bounce rate become lower. In this way, you also ensure that visitors will keep coming back.

Many SEO requirements overlap with accessibility best practices, such as providing high quality and accessible content and applying an intuitive design universal to all users.

Most of the technical practices such as the use of the right semantics, descriptive alternative text in all visuals, an organized header structure, title tags and more, relate to the site’s compatibility. It makes your site accessible to different types of navigations such as keyboard navigation or visually-impaired using screen readers.

5. It improves your business reputation

Being ADA compliant and having an ADA compliant website is an opportunity for every business to create a positive impact, promote their brand reputation and increase customer loyalty.

Accessible organizations are perceived more positively in today’s world, social and corporate responsibility are concepts which customers value. As shown in Forbes’s cited study published in November 2018, corporate social responsibility is a key strategy for a company to increase their customers’ loyalty. Out of 1,000 Americans, 88% said they’d be more loyal to a business that promotes social issues, while 92% said they’d definitely trust them.