When the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, companies had little choice other than to open their services through new online channels. In addition, many of these brands were shifting to an online business model for the first time, which presented unique challenges.
Fast-forward a few years, and the demand for digital products and services grows. In addition, consumer expectations are currently at an all-time high since people have now become accustomed to seamless online experiences with valuable benefits such as next-day delivery and discounted prices. Yet, the overall level of web accessibility is still extremely poor, made evident by a recent report conducted by WebAim. The study found that 97.4% of the top one million home pages had detectable WCAG 2.1 failures. These failures included low contrast text, missing alt text, empty links, missing buttons, and poor navigation.
In light of this, website accessibility has become a top concern for businesses. They look for ways to grow their online customer base while serving their target market, regardless of their level of ability.
Mitigate the risk of lawsuits
Unsurprisingly, 2021 showed another increase in web accessibility litigations in the USA. Interestingly, eCommerce is the industry that has come under the most scrutiny. However, much of this can be attributed to the point we raised earlier, as countless businesses operated with inaccessible sites and were forced to build websites quickly to navigate the pandemic.
Nevertheless, it’s fair to say there has been ample time for these companies to address their long-standing accessibility issues, and now many of them are paying the price for their negligence.
Companies can get sued multiple times.
Following the previous point, just because a company has been sued once over web accessibility doesn’t mean you are immune to further proceedings being filed against you.
This precedent was set in the 2018 case of Haynes v Hooters. In this instance, the defendant, Hooters, was actively implementing a settlement with the plaintiff when a second lawsuit was filed against them. The court determined that the first lawsuit and settlement agreement were irrelevant and that the second case could proceed. Therefore, if you run an inaccessible website, you risk having multiple lawsuits filed against you, which could get extremely expensive.
Expand the customer base
Over one billion people are living with a disability. Many of these individuals are forced to access the internet and engage with digital content differently. Some of them may have to use a keyboard for navigation; others may need a screen reader to comprehend what is on the screen. Whatever assistive technology people resort to, they will likely require a fully accessible website for it to work correctly. Thus, many businesses are now looking to improve web accessibility to expand their potential customer base and generate more revenue. On top of this, people with disabilities are known to be one of the demographics with the highest disposable income, thus making them a lucrative target for business owners.
Provide a better experience for all users
Finally, a more accessible website allows users with disabilities to interact and engage with a website. Still, it creates a better user experience all-around, including users who don’t have a disability. This is because = most of the benefits of web accessibility offer general improvements to the user experience as a whole, such as:
- Improved navigation
- Appropriate color contrast
- Clear, concise written content
- A simpler user authentication process
- Alt text and accurate closed captions
Improving website accessibility is now one of the most important parts of web development. Whether it’s through an overlay, manual coding, or hiring a full-time web developer, improving the accessibility of your website is becoming an increasingly important issue with each passing year, not only because of the growing number of ADA lawsuits but also due to the investment that the rest of the business world is putting into it. Organizations that fail to implement measures will fall behind, especially since their competitors will have unrivaled access to the world’s one billion impaired users.