According to the World Report on Disability, approximately 15% of the global population suffers from a disability, which equates to around 1 billion people. Yet, despite being the world’s largest minority, those with disabilities are often inadvertently excluded from a wide variety of public and private services. This frequent disregard and ostracization from society limits those with disabilities from participating in large parts of the economy, since they cannot purchase and utilize a significant proportion of the available products and services offered online.
Moreover, one of the areas where this discrimination is most prevalent is on the internet. According to Wired, just one percent of the top million homepages on the web meets the most widely used accessibility standards, which goes to show how little regard website owners have for their disabled visitors.
So, what exactly is website accessibility? In a nutshell, web accessibility is the process of ensuring that there are no barriers present to prevent people with disabilities from interacting with or accessing websites on the World Wide Web.
All users should be able to access the same level of information and have access to the same functionality even when using assistive technology such as screen readers, keyboard navigation, and voice recognition software. A fully accessible site should be available to those with all disabilities, including:
- Impaired vision (blindness)
- Impaired hearing (deafness)
- Motor difficulties
- Cognitive impairments/learning disabilities
The Universal Web Accessibility Standards
It’s important to note that website accessibility isn’t something businesses are left to tend to out of the kindness of their heart. Instead, there are very clear guidelines and regulations that have been laid out that businesses must comply with; otherwise, they may face heavy sanctions and lawsuits.
The most commonly cited and widely accepted set of standards is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). The WCAG 2.1 is part of a collection of accessibility regulations issued by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative, whose mission is to ensure that the internet is used to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure its long-term growth. These universal guidelines assess websites based on various metrics that fall under the following four categories: perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness.
In the United States, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against disabled people “on the basis of disability in public accommodations activities.” While this was originally intended to focus on physical impediments, the same framework is now being enforced online. The WCAG 2.1 is typically the set of standards used in court to establish that a website is deemed inaccessible.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at four key reasons why you need to put web accessibility at the top of your agenda for 2022.
Web Accessibility Lawsuits Are at an All-Time High
2021 has been a record-setting year in many ways, but one of the least coveted accolades has to go to the latest web accessibility statistics. With around 11 new claims per day, it’s safe to say that people are starting to become more aware of their rights when it comes to online accessibility, and that spells bad news for anyone intending to carry on neglecting it.
According to the Bureau Of Internet Accessibility, the average cost of a web accessibility settlement averages around $25,000. With the number of lawsuits expected to rise in 2022, it’s probably a good idea to take some time to work towards compliance, so you can avoid being on the wrong end of one of those claims.
It’s Now Easier Than Ever to Achieve Compliance
Thanks to automated web accessibility solutions offered by sites such as accessiBe.com, it’s never been easier to achieve compliance with the various web accessibility standards. Considering the low cost of these solutions compared to running an audit and hiring a full-time coder, there’s no reason why any business owner can’t bring their website up to speed and open up their services to all users (regardless of their level of ability).
It’s the Right Thing to Do
With things such as diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) becoming more of a talking point in our society, eyes are firmly pointed at businesses these days to ensure that they are doing the right thing. Remember, people buy from brands that they resonate with, and they feel as though they can trust. A large part of that comes down to shared values and standing up for the same causes. With this in mind, championing the cause for web accessibility and being seen to take the time to make provisions for those with impairments would be a great look for your brand, and therefore should be top of your list moving into 2022.
It Makes Sense
Companies without accessible sites are losing around $6.9 billion a year to competitors who maintain compliance. So why is this? As mentioned earlier, disabled people account for more than 1 billion people in the world. They are also one of the demographics with the highest disposable income. As a result, excluding disabled users from your website and preventing them from purchasing your products and services is a very poor business decision. Not only does it look bad, but it will almost certainly hurt your bottom line and lead to your company missing out on revenue.
With social issues taking center stage around the world, topics such as web accessibility are getting more attention than ever before – and it’s about time. With over one billion disabled individuals worldwide, website owners must step up to the plate and make adequate provisions so that those with impairments can achieve the same level of functionality as anybody else would. Not only is it the right thing to do, but making your site compliant presents a wide range of benefits, including opening up more opportunities to make sales, avoiding lawsuits and litigation, and improving the public perception of your brand.