ac·ces·si·bil·i·ty [əkˌsesəˈbilədē] – the quality of being easy to obtain or use; easily understood or appreciated.
When you hear “accessibility,” some words that might come to mind are disabilities, wheelchairs, wayfinding, sign language, and ramps. You may also start to think about the daily challenges people with disabilities face in navigating the world around them. But does the Internet come to mind? If you do not have a disability or know someone who does, you may be underestimating just how inaccessible the web can be.
In 2010, the Census Bureau Report found that 1 in 5 Americans have some form disability - that's over 56 million people. What’s more is that worldwide, over a billion people (or about 15%) have a disability. Of this, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired and 360 million have hearing loss. People with disabilities are actually the largest minority group but, sadly, they’re often overlooked.
Why should you care?
The most fundamental reason you should care about this issue is because every human deserves an equal opportunity to explore the internet without hindrance. Imagine going online to order groceries only to find that a majority of grocery delivery websites use fuzzy images, instructional videos you can’t hear, impossible navigation and confusing descriptions. That would be incredibly frustrating; you’d likely end up ordering the wrong foods or not ordering anything at all. People with disabilities experience these online barriers every day, and they run much deeper than grocery deliveries.
Alternatively, from a business perspective, ignoring accessibility on your website means shutting out 19% of potential customers. That’s a huge risk to take when 79% of Americans shop online. By creating an accessible digital space, you dramatically decrease the risk of site abandonment, leaving more opportunity for brand engagement.
Although improving website accessibility is known to promote new business, many companies are still hesitant to make the change. This is often due to budget restrictions and the myth that accessible websites lack design and fluidity. This hesitation to embrace accessibility fueled the foundation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.
ADA website compliance laws provide companies, organizations, and government entities with the guidelines required to ensure equal access to digital media for those with disabilities. Efforts to meet these guidelines can be complicated and costly. However, those who meet legal requirements will not only avoid increases in government crackdowns on these laws, but also increase their ability to reach and interact with this large segment of the population.
Since early 2015, more than 240 businesses across the US have been sued in federal court over website accessibility. Bank of America, Target, Safeway, and Charles Schwab are only a few of big name brands that were caught in the crossfire of failed ADA compliance regulations – some losing millions of dollars in the process.
Amidst web design projects, designers and developers tend to neglect accessibility for fear that it’ll take away from the website’s overall aesthetic. The fact is that with appropriate planning and consideration, accessibility and a beautiful web design aren’t mutually exclusive. By creating universal access to your website, you will create economic benefits, avoid potential litigation issues, and create an overall happier customer experience.
Want guidance from our UX experts on how to make your website more accessible? For more information and a copy of our Website Accessibility Checklist, check out our latest eBook, "Accessibility in Web Design: What It Is and How to Implement It!"