Website Accessibility is Good Business
Accessibility is a hot topic today in the world of website design.
Accessibility, as it is defined in the American Disabilities Act (ADA) refers to the ability of people with any kind of disability to access and utilize public spaces. Even Though the ADA was legislated into law in 1990, before the Internet was what it is today, recent lawsuits brought on by disabled individuals and disability rights organizations have made it clear that websites are considered public spaces and MUST be accessible to EVERYONE.
Do I really need an Accessible Website?
There are several reasons why it makes good sense to ensure that your website is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which are considered the gold-standard authority for web accessibility. As a small business owner –
You do not want to lose a single customer. It is estimated that one in six website visitors have some kind of disability that makes it hard for them to use your website. This includes all levels of hearing, sight and mobility. Some site visitors may have only temporary disabilities, like after cataract surgery or a broken arm, others need accessible sites all their lives. Think about it. People with disabilities are more likely to purchase what they need online because it is super convenient for them, precisely because of the added layer of difficulties they face in public retail spaces.
SEO ranking is important. Google and other search engines factor in accessibility when ranking websites for display in search results. For business owners targeting local customers, this is especially important.
It’s good for your brand. Ensuring that your website is accessible to everyone reflects well on you and your brand. It expresses your empathy towards others, respect for diversity and your high ethical standards — all traits you want your brand identified with.
You cannot afford unnecessary legal expenses. Like it or not, there are law firms who are building their practice on this lucrative niche by actively targeting small to medium businesses that do not comply with ADA. Needless to say, they have been very successful in collecting settlements for their clients.
How do I make my site accessible?
As you have probably already concluded, an accessible website is a must have and often just good web design. The good news is that Wix is strongly committed to website accessibility and has dedicated major resources to upgrading their website building platform.
But the Wix platform can only go so far. It is up to Website designers and DIY website builders to ensure that their content (texts, images, videos, etc.) are also complaint with local accessibility laws, which are different in each country. Here are some of the main design features that every accessible website design should incorporate:
Title hierarchy: Correct use of Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3. This is also important for SEO and therefore, often already implemented.
Alt tags for all important images: This one is tricky, as it is also good practice for SEO ranking and until now, alt tags have been worded with this is mind. The emphasis in wording for accessibility is a bit different and all alt tags should be reviewed and revised so that they meet both requirements.
Avoid animations, parallax scrolling and autoplay video/audio and automatic popups: These actions can make websites inaccessible for many visitors and customers, including users with ADHD, epilepsy and motion sickness, by hindering the use of screen readers which many disabled viewers rely on. If they must be used, they should be added sparingly.
Fonts and color contrast: Fonts that are hard to read and do have a high enough contrast from their backgrounds may be illegible to screen readers. Actually, this is just good design practice for all website visitors.
Multimedia accessibility: Videos and audio segments should include accompanying closed captioning and transcripts.
PDFs on your site: Simple pdf documents linked to your site are not machine-readable and therefore, do not meet accessibility requirements. Adobe Acrobat Pro has built in accessibility tools that can be used to correct this.
Add a Sitemap page: Wix has always included sitemap information for all websites built on their platform for SEO indexing, but accessibility standards are now requiring that a dedicated page be created as well. It is up to designers to create this page and link to it from the homepage of every site.
Add a Usability Dashboard: This is a third-party add on that goes a long way to creating a user-friendly environment for those who have difficulties navigating websites. You may have already noticed it popping up on websites all over the Internet. I have installed the UserWay Accessibility Widget on my own site. You can see it as a small round icon on left side of all my web pages, including this post page. Click on it to see what the full menu looks like.
If all this seems overwhelming to you, I completely understand. I’ve been researching and learning about accessibility requirements for some weeks now and it is a complex topic. However, it is the responsibility of every website owner to ensure that their site is accessible to everyone. It's just good business.
If you are interested in a review of your site and implementation of my findings.