Six Ways to Sabotage Your Digital Accessibility

February 4, 2020

You’ve tested your website, read up on accessibility trends, and even trained your staff on digital accessibility best practices. You should be set…right?

Despite the best intentions, if any of the six mistakes below look familiar, you could actually be sabotaging your digital accessibility efforts.

1. Fixing it and forgetting it

Many people think accessibility is a one-time fix, but ensuring your site remains accessible is a continuous, ongoing process. Some changes are in the owner’s control, but others, like web browser updates and evolution of assistive technology, need to be monitored.

Here are a few tips to ensure you remain in compliance:

2. Waiting until everything is set — then having to redesign it

Planning for digital accessibility from the beginning can save a lot of time and extra work. It should be treated with the same sense of necessity as other parts of your business strategy — not as an afterthought.  

It is also important to prioritize specific parts of your website design from the beginning. One of the biggest challenges web designers face is trying to rework their site for accessibility, when their design is otherwise finished.

A few tips for accessible web design include:

  • Design for desktop and mobile. In today’s digital, often mobile world, users are much better served when designs account for various device types. This helps people with and without disabilities.
  • Diversify your accessible color palette. Ensuring your color palette has enough accessible colors helps ensure you will have sufficient color contrast — a key element of accessible design. You can refer to these color contrast guidelines for help.
  • Consider keyboard accessibility from the beginning. Many people use a keyboard instead of a mouse. Designing digital tools that operate only with a mouse excludes many individuals, and could force you to redesign your work entirely. For an introduction into quick keyboard testing, read Give Yourself an Accessibility Test: Don't Use a Mouse.
  • Consider text alternatives. Be sure to include alt text, so that screen readers can easily pick up descriptions of your pictures. Including links to text transcripts and accessible text versions of large infographics is also important.

3. Relying only on automated tools

There are many benefits to automated accessibility testing, which scans web pages for accessibility violations. This includes speed, benchmarking, and catching obvious issues.

Automated accessibility has its limitations, though. Scans lack the subtleties and knowledge to identify all of the elements that can present accessibility challenges. Things like inadequate alt text, mislabeled elements, inaccessible off-page links, or failed color contrast ratios can fall through the cracks. Automated scans also can’t identify the most important use cases on a website.

Ultimately it is people, not machines, who are using websites. Automated scans are most valuable when combined with human testing, such as our four-point hybrid testing.

4. Focusing on only part of your digital presence

A common pitfall is only focusing on one aspect of digital accessibility, such as website or desktop accessibility. There are many digital platforms that need to be prioritized, including email, social media, and mobile devices.

Email accessibility

Accessible emails honor diversity and inclusion — two fundamental values in today’s business world. And, as the most effective channel for revenue generation (according to 59% of B2B marketers), it’s essential from a bottom-line perspective, too.

Several tips include:

  • Using larger font sizes (14 pixels and larger)
  • Balancing text in sections or with images (breaking up text to be more digestible)
  • Using proper semantic elements (like headings and lists)
  • Creating descriptive hyperlinks (no “click here”)
  • Adding captions and transcripts to videos

10 Tips to Optimize Email Accessibility offer additional more in-depth tips.

iOS and Android Testing

Since late 2015, mobile web traffic has surpassed desktop, with up to 70% of web traffic coming from mobile devices. This is especially relevant for email marketing, as 75% of Americans say they use their smartphones most often to check email, according to Blue Corona.

These three key points are helpful to remember:

  • The user, not the company, decides how they’ll access the content
  • Mobile sites or apps are different than desktop sites
  • Apps and mobile sites aren’t automatically accessible because of mobile features

You can download the Definitive Checklist for Mobile Accessibility, or visit  iOS and Android Testing for a free 30-minute consultation.

Social Media

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can raise some specific access issues. Addressing these challenges not only helps broaden your customer base — but helps build your brand reputation as a company that cares about accessibility.  

Here are resources to get you started:

5. Limiting accessibility awareness to a small group

It can be challenging to integrate knowledge of a specific subject area throughout an organization. As a result, sometimes important information becomes siloed in departments or within specific roles. This can cause issues with consistency and follow-through — not to mention confusion among staff members.

Digital accessibility is no exception to this challenge. Here are a few important things all employees should know about accessibility:

  • There are established standards. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have been around for over 20 years. The latest is WCAG 2.1, published in 2018.
  • Lack of accessibility could mean lawsuits. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is widely interpreted as including digital presence. This is partially why, over the past several years, the number of lawsuits regarding website accessibility has increased dramatically. Remaining in WCAG compliance can avoid costly and time-consuming legal problems
  • It benefits your bottom line. You have customers that have disabilities, and many of your competitors are accommodating these buyers. Ignoring digital accessibility means excluding an important part of your customer base — and likely sending them to other businesses.

For some additional tips, read What Project Managers Need to Know About Accessibility and 8 Things the C-Suite Needs to Know About Accessibility.

6. Ignoring digital accessibility entirely

Many organizations seem to have adopted a “wait it out” strategy in response to accessibility. They’ll deal with the issue of accessibility if and when it arises — which could eventually come in the form of an ADA demand letter.

Digital accessibility is not a passing fad. Each year, the percentage of Americans with disabilities continues to rise (now at 26%), as well as the number of Americans using the internet. An estimated 90% of Americans used the internet in 2019 — up from only 83% a few years before. Moreover, with the rise of ADA lawsuits, more and more organizations are feeling the heat to ensure digital compliance.

Ignoring digital accessibility not only goes against an important trend, but could put your organization in jeopardy.

Here to help bring your digital presence into accessibility compliance

Talk to us to learn all the ways we can help customize an accessibility strategy to meet your unique business needs. Or, get started with a free and confidential website accessibility scan. We look forward to being your accessibility partner.

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