The importance of an accessible website is vital to all businesses. It is a straightforward process and increases your potential pool of customers. The internet is an increasingly valuable resource in many aspects of everyday life: we use it for education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. Over 78.2% of the U.S. population uses the internet every day. If your website is not already ADA compliant, you are automatically missing out on millions of potential customers who cannot access your site due to their disabilities.
What Is Website Accessibility?
Web accessibility is the practice of designing a website that are easily navigated, viewed, and used by anyone regardless of mental or physical disability.
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) states all places of public accommodation must be accessible to those with disabilities, including websites. Additionally, the ADA has a strict set of liability rules, meaning there is no legal defense if reported. Owners of non-accessible websites can face criminal charges and lawsuits.
Compliance and accessibility are two different ideas that play into one another. You’re complying with the terms laid out by the ADA. However, for your website to be ADA compliant, it first needs to be accessible.
That means everyone, including persons with disabilities, can enjoy the “full and equal” use of your website. It includes all users on all devices, no matter the physical or mental ability of the user. They can access your content, navigate the site successfully, engage with different elements, and so on.
Features like closed captioning, keyboard navigation, audio description, and more help make the site available. Most importantly, these are easy to implement changes that bring more customers to you. Consequently, there are many free resources online that can help you make sure your site is accessible.
SEO and ADA accessibility go hand in hand, using many of the same practices and tools. While it’s important to understand where SEO and accessibility overlap, it’s also relevant to note that optimizing for one is not necessarily akin to optimizing for the other.
For example, describing an image also ensures you are providing search engines with some keyword-rich, descriptive text. Displaying text associated with that image will allow people that are searching for a picture like yours to be able to find it quickly.
In addition, the same tools allow your website to be read by a screen-reader for those who experience visual impairments. Screen readers, much like search engine crawlers, rely on signals in the code. The code helps the screen-reader determine the structure and context of what they’re crawling, similar to a search crawler. The overlap in what search crawlers look for versus a screen-reader is small, but the idea is the same.
Why it is vital to your business
The internet is an essential resource in everyday life. Accessible websites provide equal access and opportunity for everyone and make sure you are not leaving money on the table. In the end, a small expense now can pay off in the future and alleviate any legal headaches.