When you built your website, functionality was likely at the core of your design so clients, customers, and prospects could easily determine what you offered and how you could help them. But your website design may inadvertently be a barrier to an entire group of website users—and it could cost you fines as well as lost sales.
That’s because you have an obligation to ensure your website is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and its guidelines that cover the Internet and websites, known as the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
The National Law Review estimates that lawsuits involving accessible design have increased 75% over the past few years, from about 2,000 in 2018 to 3,500 in 2020, with cases entailing a wide variety of industries—small business included.
And of course, not only is it the law to abide by the ADA, but it’s a smart business practice; the Web Accessibility Initiate (WAI) estimates there are 1 billion people with disabilities globally. These include people who have limited physical mobility, vision or hearing loss and cognitive deficits, among other limitations. Read on to find out how you can make sure your website is doing what it should to reach these consumers.
An important resource to consult for website accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the WAI. While federal businesses and contractors are required to conform with these standards, it isn’t as clear-cut for private businesses, since it is not a law that they have to conform to these specific guidelines. However, since the ADA covers websites, these comprehensive standards are a helpful guideline to ensure your business meets the requirements.
As a brief overview, some of the key aspects of universal design are:
Please note that these are only examples and don’t cover all the details. Refer to the WCAG for more information and/or an attorney who can help ensure you meet all applicable guidelines.
Your website platform might also offer a tool to check or help your compliance; for example, WordPress, a common website design platform, has an accessibility plugin that evaluates content.
In order to ensure you are not only compliant but also user-friendly, work with people with disabilities during design, development and testing.
While you might be upgrading your website design to conform to ADA standards, the good news is that these accommodations are just smart business practices as they can make all of our lives a little easier. It’s similar to the way that even though portions of the ADA Act were designed to help people with wheelchairs, those with strollers have found it really helpful, too, to be able to navigate ramps rather than curbs and stairs.
Here are some ways that website universal design best practices can help us all:
With today’s focus on diversity, it’s important to remember that the concept of inclusion extends to a variety of groups with differences in gender, culture, sexual orientation, religion, and age. Yet it also means making your business accessible to those with different abilities. Best practices in accessible web design can ensure you don’t alienate potential customers or incur lawsuits.
For more information on protecting your business and its online activities, call O’Kane and Tegay Insurance Brokers today. They can discuss an array of cyber liability issues and insurance that may help protect you and your business.