Navigating the Web of Accessibility: A Must-Read for Modern Businesses

Navigating the Web of Accessibility: A Must-Read for Modern Businesses

Written by Angie

Brand Strategist with more than 15 years of experience specializing in creating brands that attract ideal clients through logo design, packaging, and web design.

In the digital age, where the internet serves as a primary platform for business, education, and communication, ensuring that websites are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, has become not just a moral imperative but also a legal requirement. As a brand strategist and web designer, I emphasize the significance of website accessibility to my clients at Kredo Design, not only as a means to foster inclusivity but also to adhere to legal standards and enhance their brand reputation.

Understanding the Web of Accessibility

Website accessibility refers to the practice of designing websites and online content in a way that people with disabilities can use them. This includes individuals who may have impairments related to vision, hearing, mobility, or cognition. Accessible design ensures that all users have equal access to information and functionality, which involves providing text alternatives for non-text content, ensuring that websites can be navigated using a keyboard, making sure that websites are readable and understandable, and more.

The Importance of Website Accessibility

Accessibility is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it embodies the principle of inclusivity, ensuring that the digital world is open to all, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. This not only expands your audience reach but also reflects positively on your brand as socially responsible and compliant with global standards.

Moreover, website accessibility can significantly improve the user experience (UX) for all visitors. The importance of website accessibility becomes even more evident when we consider the statistics surrounding disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 26% of adults in the U.S., or 1 in 4, live with some form of disability. The 10 most common disabilities among these individuals include mobility limitations, cognition-related disabilities, hearing loss, vision impairment, the inability to live independently, the inability to go outside the home, self-care difficulties, and difficulties with daily activities. These disabilities can significantly impact an individual’s ability to access and navigate websites that are not designed with accessibility in mind.

For someone with a mobility limitation, for instance, a website that requires mouse navigation and does not support keyboard-only operations can be impossible to use. Similarly, individuals with cognitive disabilities may find websites with complex navigation and inconsistent layouts confusing and inaccessible. Those with hearing impairments might miss out on critical information if videos and multimedia are not captioned. Vision impairments, including blindness, make non-text content like images and videos inaccessible unless alternative text is provided. Without these accommodations, a website becomes not just a barrier to information or services but a source of exclusion and frustration.

The impact of an inaccessible website on a person with disabilities extends beyond mere inconvenience. It can result in a lack of access to essential services, information, and opportunities that many of us take for granted. This not only isolates individuals but also denies them the independence and freedom that digital platforms can offer. In essence, ensuring website accessibility is not just about compliance or expanding market reach; it’s about upholding the rights and dignity of every individual, recognizing the diversity of human experiences, and making the digital world inclusive for all.

Legal Risks of Ignoring Accessibility

In both the European Union (EU) and the United States (US), laws and regulations mandate website accessibility, and failure to comply can result in legal action and hefty fines.

In the EU, the Web Accessibility Directive requires public sector websites and mobile apps to meet specific accessibility standards. Similarly, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) is set to extend these requirements to certain private sector services as well. This is why websites serving the European Union need to be looked at differently.

In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been interpreted by courts to apply to websites, meaning that businesses can face lawsuits if their online presence is not accessible. The Rehabilitation Act also includes Section 508, which mandates that all federal electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities.

Fines and legal actions have been significant and varied. For example, in the US, several high-profile lawsuits have resulted in substantial settlements and legal fees, alongside the requirement to make websites accessible. In the EU, organizations face penalties and legal obligations to report on their compliance status, with potential fines depending on the specific country’s legislation.

If you’re found to violate ADA compliance, your first violation may result in a penalty of $55,000 to $75,000. Subsequent violations can result in a $150,000 fine or more.

Web of Accessibility: A Must-Read for Businesses

According to Accessibility.com’s annual recap of U.S. web accessibility lawsuits, about 70% of the cases filed in 2022 came from New York state while California was second, with about 27% of the annual total.

Examples and Mitigation Strategies

The legal landscape surrounding website accessibility has seen a sharp increase in litigation, highlighting the risks businesses face when neglecting this aspect of their digital presence. Notable examples include:

Target Corporation: In 2008, Target paid $6 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that its website was not accessible to blind users. Additionally, they agreed to update their web design to meet accessibility standards.

Domino’s Pizza: In 2019, Domino’s faced a lawsuit because their website and app were not fully accessible to blind users, despite arguments reaching the Supreme Court. The court’s decision to not hear the case left Domino’s responsible for ensuring their digital platforms are accessible.

Winn-Dixie: In 2017, a federal court in Florida found that the grocery chain Winn-Dixie had violated the ADA because its website was not accessible to users with vision impairments, marking a significant precedent for website accessibility cases.

Harvard: Harvard University agreed to pay $1,575,000 to improve its website and online course accessibility for people with hearing disabilities, showcasing the importance of accessible educational resources.

Netflix: Netflix agreed to a settlement of $755,000 and committed to making its video streaming service fully accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, highlighting the need for accessible digital entertainment.

HRB Digital LLC and HRB Tax Group, Inc.: A settlement of $100,000 was reached to ensure that H&R Block’s website, tax filing utility, and mobile apps are fully accessible to blind users, emphasizing the need for accessibility in financial services.

The top 5 Most Common Website Accessibility Issues

Creating an accessible website ensures everyone can navigate and enjoy your content, but many sites still overlook key areas. Here are the top five most common website accessibility issues:
1. No Alt Text for Images
2. Insufficient Color Contrast
3. Inaccessible Keyboard Navigation
4. Missing Video Captions
5. Complex or Inconsistent Navigation

Simplifying Accessibility: How Kredo Design Can Assist with Web Accessibility

Addressing website accessibility may seem daunting, but Kredo Design is here to simplify the process. We specialize in developing accessible websites that not only meet legal standards but also provide an exceptional user experience. Our services include conducting thorough accessibility audits and implementing inclusive design principles, ensuring your website is welcoming to all. By choosing Kredo Design, you’re not just making your site legally compliant; you’re also making a strong statement about your brand’s commitment to inclusivity.

Who Can Sue:

  • Individuals with disabilities facing barriers on websites.
  • Disability advocacy groups representing the interests of disabled communities.
  • Government agencies enforcing compliance with legal standards.

Making your website accessible is not only about avoiding fines or legal battles; it’s about embracing a broader vision for your business. By prioritizing accessibility, you’re enhancing your brand’s reach, improving SEO, and demonstrating social responsibility. It’s an investment in a more inclusive society and a wider customer base.

Conclusion

As we move towards a more inclusive digital future, the importance of website accessibility cannot be overstated. For businesses, this means recognizing the value of accessibility not just as a legal requirement but as a cornerstone of ethical and customer-focused web design. By partnering with Kredo Design, you ensure that your website is not only compliant but also aligned with the best practices in digital inclusivity, enhancing your brand’s reputation and reach.

Remember, accessibility is not just a feature; it’s a fundamental aspect of modern web design that benefits everyone. Let’s work together to create a more accessible and inclusive digital world.

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"Angie was an integral part of our team during the creation and development of the Ecobolt brand of folding electric motorcycles.

Starting with brainstorming the brand name and designing our website, through creating marketing materials and sales networking, her knowledge and insight across many aspects of the business were invaluable."

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COO and CFO, Green Energy Motors

"Working with Angie has been a true pleasure.  She is extremely knowledgeable and patient, and the website she designed for my business is beautiful and functional.  She understands the technical aspects of building a website and has the marketing skills necessary for making it useful. Throughout our work together, I felt that Angie cared about my business and the clients that I serve.  She worked within my budget and gave me the skills that I need to maintain my website independently in the future.  Without reservation, I would recommend Angie and Kredo Design to other business owners".

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She created the perfect logo and her ideas for the website truly aligned with the path my business is headed. I have a perfect website and blog thanks to Angie and Kredo Design. You can have one too - don't hesitate to give her a call!"

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Animal Communicator, Fresh Spirit Works

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