- Digital Marketing
Web accessibility is a people thing, and we care about people, but web accessibility is a vital business thing, and as Seattle’s leading digital media group, we definitely care about business. Bonsai sees web accessibility launching to center stage, and we want to make sure the accessibility of your business’ website is fully compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
What is it?
Web accessibility allows any person, including people with physical, visual or speech limitations, to perceive, understand, navigate and not just interact, but contribute to the web. Web accessibility also benefits people with unique and changing needs like: the elderly, temporary disabilities (injuries or misplaced glasses), situational limitations (bright sunlight or an audio-restrictive environment) or limited or slow internet connections. It’s no secret that the web is rapidly changing how humans live—not only in the sprawling metropolis, but also in developing countries.
Are we doing this to be nice?
Web accessibility casts a wider net for all people in all circumstances to connect to a global web. But it’s not merely an emotional plea for the greater good for all people, but business benefits from dialed-in web accessibility. User experience becomes seamless and streamlined with improved web accessibility. Brands are enhanced, innovation is sparked and market reach is extended with strategic and purposeful improvements to web accessibility. In many situations, web accessibility is required by law.
What has to change?
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most important guidelines for web accessibility policy and set the standard for web accessibility legislation in most countries around the world. Reading through the entire WCAG might be easy reading for a seasoned law team, but that’s not us. We simplified the jargon into 4 essential principles your website must consider: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
1. Perceivable - how customers perceive online content through sight, sound, and touch. An accessible website with perceivable features might include captions for videos, text that can be adjusted for contrast, color, text size, spacing and font, making a site easier to read.
2. Operable - the ways people use a website. An operable website, compliant with WCAG guidelines, needs to be navigable entirely by keyboard, sight-assisted navigation, and other alternatives to a classic mouse.
3. Understandable - the ease of understanding a website. There is a lack of technical terms and complex phrases on WCAG compliant websites. All instructions are simple, consistent, and easy to follow. Users shouldn’t be confused when reading an accessible website.
4. Robust - the way a website can be over and above. There are two factors that make a site robust: a) using clean HTML and CSS code that meets recognized standards and b) being compatible with assistive tools that people with disabilities use to browse online.
Why should I change?
When it comes to digital marketing, we should have a pragmatic reason for attempting accessibility. We don’t do things because they make us feel good. We do them because in business the goal is to make money. Accessibility can have ranking benefits via alt text and other features. Accessibility can decrease bounce rates. It can increase sales and can increase your site’s popularity among those ignored by your competition. It can enhance SEO and increase traffic. Accessibility should be considered by everyone who works in web development or digital marketing. All people are consumers, and we want to be accessible to everyone.
Who’s gonna make me?
In the U.S., the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) prohibits discrimination against anyone based on ability or disability. All types and sizes of businesses have to comply with ADA legislation for their customers and employees (if there are more than 15 employees). The ADA affects every kind of business in the physical realm, but it is less obvious that it covers websites and online spaces. Since 2017, a clear consensus emerged that the ADA also covers the online world. Today, U.S. courts apply ADA and accessibility requirements to the online domain, which means websites need to comply with ADA rules. The rest of the world feels the same, and different governing bodies enforce similar disability acts around the world. Non-U.S. guidelines and disability acts can be found here.
I’m still not convinced…
Bonsai Media Group has seen a steep rise in ADA Title III-related lawsuits in the last two years. In 20017, 816 lawsuits were filed, and in 2018 that number more than doubled to 2,200 with approximately 40,000 demand letters sent. In 2019 experts estimated that over 100,000 letters in 2019 and over 10,000 lawsuits were filed. Web accessibility cases against giants like Domino’s, Nike and Beyonce made the headlines, but it’s estimated that 85% of the lawsuits in federal and state courts have been filed against small and medium-sized businesses. Web agencies need to realize that they are responsible to their clients for ADA Title III requirements. If their client gets sued, the responsibility lies with the agency that designed the site. A stellar reputation based on high-quality work is not worth the risk.
Fine. Sign me up.
We’re here to not just help your website comply with regulations, but ensure that your presence on the web will capture your biggest market share. We have resources and guides, specifically for web developers and web designers to get your started, but connect with us to start a bigger conversation.