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What If I Can't Afford Digital Accessibility?

Jul 25, 2019

Some businesses may wonder if their pockets are deep enough or there is enough value in making their sites and apps accessible, and genuinely have the question, "What if I can't afford accessibility?"

There is nothing inherently wrong with asking the question. After all, businesses share the goal of making money, and expenses should be carefully scrutinized and prioritized. If you find yourself asking whether your business can afford accessibility, hopefully some of this information can help.

Digital accessibility is an investment

Unnecessary costs are hard to swallow, but there is probably a more accurate way of looking at accessibility — as an investment.

investment in your brand

In addition to simply making your content available to more people, thus providing more chances for people to have positive experiences with your brand, people are increasingly choosing to do businesses with brands that align with their values.

Read more:

Investment in your customer

Some businesses believe the common myths that people with disabilities don't use computers and that their customer base doesn't include people with disabilities. An estimated 25% of U.S. adults has a disability and thinking that a segment that large doesn't go online or make purchases is misguided and a missed opportunity. Your customers are diverse — show them you value them and their business.

Related: Accessibility Is Privacy and Security

Investment in cleaner technology

Accessible code tends to be cleaner code. This could translate into that is more likely to render as expected, load faster, and rank more highly in search results.

Read more:

Digital accessibility is a requirement

For some, this is the most helpful piece of information to learn: web accessibility is a civil right for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation. As the rise in web accessibility lawsuits and plaintiff-favored rulings show, websites are increasingly being considered places of public accommodation.

A review of a January 2019 update in the Domino's accessibility case, in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss a web accessibility case, may help answer some common questions.

Does the ADA apply to websites and apps?

According to the opinion's summary, here's why the ADA applies to Domino's website and app:

"The Act mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino's, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino's physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation. The panel stated that the website and app connected customers to the goods and services of Domino's physical restaurants."

Does the ADA specify a particular set of accessibility standards?

The accessibility world is waiting for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to formally prescribe web accessibility standards. Until then, it's been determined that the DOJ's failure to do so doesn't necessarily provide an excuse for having an inaccessible website, meaning websites have to be accessible even though the ADA doesn't specify a set of standards or guidelines.

The appeals court noted, "While we understand why Domino's wants DOJ to issue specific guidelines for website and app accessibility, the Constitution only requires that Domino's receive fair notice of its legal duties, not a blueprint for compliance with its statutory obligations."

So then how could the case have been prevented?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide the best and most widely-accepted measure of accessibility. Additionally, meeting WCAG 2.0 or 2.1 has been cited numerous times as being an acceptable level of accessibility to prevent and remedy lawsuits and complaints. In the Domino's case, the reversal was careful to clarify:

"Robles [plaintiff] does not seek to impose liability based on Domino's failure to comply with WCAG 2.0. Rather, Robles merely argues—and we agree—that the district court can order compliance with WCAG 2.0 as an equitable remedy if, after discovery, the website and app fail to satisfy the ADA."

Legal complaints and lawsuits can be expensive

This may seem like an obvious point, but it's an important point. There is an investment, of time, money, or both, to making websites and apps accessible. But, an investment in compliance can protect against lengthy and expensive legal battles. Additionally, there is nothing that prevents an organization from being sued multiple times for an inaccessible website, i.e., it isn't true that getting sued once protects you from future suits.

Here are some new features we've rolled out to help in this area:

A lot of free tools and information are available

The digital accessibility community is a passionate and generous group when it comes to making valuable tools and information readily available, and you can start using many of them immediately. Here are some of the free resources we have available to everyone right now:

  • Color contrast checker. The a11y® Color Contrast Accessibility Validator provides a free color analysis of any web page or color combination, and it's so easy to use.
  • Website accessibility scan. You can get a free graded accessibility report of your website to start understanding many of the accessibility issues found with our powerful automated testing platform.
  • Monthly newsletter. Subscribe to our monthly Digital Accessibility Newsletter to get timely accessibility news and tips. Bonus: check out past editions, too, for a crash course in accessibility.
  • Accessibility blog. We strive to consistently publish the most valuable best practices and insider tips to help you grow in your accessibility awareness and compliance. Subscribe to our blog to get weekly updates.
  • Website accessibility checklist. Download the Website Accessibility Checklist for basic guidelines for accessibility compliance.
  • Mobile Accessibility checklist. Download the Definitive Checklist for Mobile Accessibility to help you catch accessibility issues on smaller screens and mobile devices.
  • Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility. Download the 29-page Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility, broken into four important chapters.
  • Free consultation. Anyone can contact us to request a free consultation with one of our accessibility experts.

Also check out Free Accessibility Tools and Assistive Technology You Can Use Today for information about popular and free assistive technology, like those already built into your phone.

You may be able to accomplish a lot of fixes yourself

It's true that some accessibility fixes require technical and creative solutions, but it's also true that even with a modest HTML knowledge you can test and fix a lot yourself.

First, become familiar with guidelines and best practices (and myths)

Here are some to get you started:

Start testing

Without being an expert, you can at least test for some major accessibility barriers on your own.

Start fixing

It's always easier to create accessible experiences for your customers from the beginning, but it's never too late to start making your site more accessible if you haven't already done so. Here are some actionable ways to get started:

Related: Where Should You Start with Web Accessibility Fixes? Somewhere.

Accessible competitors will have the edge

A commitment to digital accessibility is starting to become expected, and the reality is that if your digital presence isn't accessible, people will leave your site and do business with your more accessible competitors. For many, it's out of necessity — if people can't confidently use your website, they have to do business elsewhere. For others, it's out of principle, as consumers want to support businesses that do the right thing.

Related: What If Your Customers Could Resolve Accessibility Issues in Real-time?

Here to help you plan and understand the journey

We're committed to helping you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance. Contact us to start customizing an accessibility compliance solution that meets your needs.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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