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Why Is Web Accessibility Still a Problem for People with Disabilities?

Why Is Web Accessibility Still a Problem for People with Disabilities?

How many times do you use a website or mobile app during the day? If you’re like most people, chances are it happens more often than you can count. Whether you want to order groceries or check the news, you visit a website or app. They’ve become integral to your personal and professional life.

But despite its numerous positive outcomes, the internet still continues to be a hostile place for differently-abled users. It’s further evident from the 2,250+ ADA Title III lawsuits that were filed just in 2019. This is because most businesses are yet to fully realize the importance of web accessibility and make it a key part of their digital identity.

The Rise of Web Accessibility Lawsuits

In the past decade, several established brands, including Domino’s Pizza, Netflix, and Five Guys Enterprises, have been sued for failing to make their websites and mobile apps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). All these lawsuits highlight the issues differently-abled people experience in terms of web accessibility.

For instance, in 2012, the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) filed a lawsuit against Netflix, alleging that the streaming platform didn’t provide equal access to hearing-impaired users. Likewise, Domino’s Pizza was sued by a San Francisco-based blind man, Guillermo Robles, in 2016. Robles claimed that he was unable to place an order on the company’s website and mobile app despite using a screen reader.

The global pizza chain tried to question the validity of the lawsuit and even submitted a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case and reinstate the ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that a business’s website and mobile app were an extension of its physical location.

Web Accessibility Challenges for People with Disabilities

A common theme that runs through most of the aforementioned web accessibility lawsuits is the inability of websites to support accessibility inclusive practices, such as the use of screen readers and keyboard navigation.

According to the World Bank, roughly 1 billion people across the globe struggle with one of the following forms of impairments: sensory, motor, or cognitive.

This means 15% of the global population experiences some type of disability which interferes with various aspects of their lives, including how they use the internet. Things that come naturally to other users, such as using a mouse or watching a video, might pose a challenge for people with disabilities.

For instance, a person with total or partial vision loss can’t perceive or interact with different website elements, including images, videos, forms, or calls-to-action (CTAs). These users often resort to assistive technology, such as screen readers, to understand what a web page is all about.

In the absence of suitable alternative text for pictures, logos, and graphics, screen readers can’t interpret these elements. This, in turn, will hinder the overall experience of users with vision impairment.

Likewise, people with color blindness may not be able to identify certain CTAs and links. Also, hearing-impaired users can’t understand videos without appropriate transcripts and captions. Moreover, flashing elements, including sliders and carousels, as well as striking colors could induce seizures in people with neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.

Users with learning disabilities or mobility issues will struggle with time-bound forms. People with motor impairment would also find it difficult to browse a website using a mouse. Instead, they’d prefer to navigate your website using the keyboard.

How Does the ADA Fit into the Picture?

Enacted in 1990, the ADA is a federal law aimed at prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities or special needs. Title III of the ADA makes it mandatory for businesses with public accommodations to ensure unrestricted access of their products/services to differently-abled people.

The law is applicable to a wide array of business organizations, as well as federal agencies. However, since the internet was still in a nascent stage in the early 90s, the ADA doesn’t explicitly specify whether its regulations are applicable to a business’s digital assets, such as websites, online tools, and mobile apps.

This, in turn, has led to plenty of confusion regarding the validity of the ADA for web accessibility. Businesses have argued that they aren’t legally bound to make their websites ADA compliant and it has resulted in making the internet less inclusive to differently-abled users.

Due Diligence for Businesses

However, as we’ve seen from the court rulings in recent web accessibility lawsuits, websites and other digital assets are considered to be an add-on to an organization’s physical infrastructure. Thus, by denying access to its website, a business is depriving differently-abled people the opportunity to use the products/services available at its physical location.

It is, therefore, in the best interest of both consumers and businesses that entrepreneurs and website developers start prioritizing accessibility inclusive designs. Moreover, meeting the requirements for website accessibility is not only necessary from an ADA compliance perspective, but also to tap into an enormous market segment.

Using a web accessibility solution like accessiBe can help you achieve both objectives. For instance, accessiBe’s AI-powered platform automates the process of making new web pages and content that is compliant with the ADA and WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Also, it adds an accessibility interface to your website to let users adjust various settings, such as color contrast and font size, according to their needs. It even adds a statement of accessibility on your website.

Ultimately, making your website accessibility inclusive is going to enhance its overall user experience and search engine-friendliness. And it’ll help make the internet a more welcoming space for differently-abled users. It is, therefore, high time business owners start prioritizing web accessibility.


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by Rebecca Jones // Contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.