There are a number of misconceptions about web accessibility – whether it's all that necessary, and on the other hand, what benefits it can offer. If you're unsure about what it means for you and your organization, check out the debunked myths below.
The Internet has changed the face of the business world forever.
Building a website, buying a domain and paying an annual hosting fee allows businesses to share information about their products and services in a way that isn't as limited as conventional means.
Before the Internet, potential customers that wanted to know more about what a given business does would have to interact with them directly. But today, when you want to know more about a business, what's your first move?
You Google them, right?
While there's certainly something to be said for doing things the old-fashioned way and talking to someone directly, more often than not these days, potential customers will start with Google and the business' website. The Internet has revolutionized the every-day person's access to information about services and products.
Unfortunately, accessing that information isn't equally as easy for every potential customer out there…
Despite all the Internet can do, it tends to work based on the assumption that all users have the same level of given abilities. But that’s not the case – there are users with varying degrees of sight and other abilities, and they need to access information on the Internet as well.
But maybe you think the reality isn't that dire…
Myth #1: People With Disabilities Don't Commonly Use Computers & We Don't Sell To People With Disabilities Anyway.
This simply isn't true and is indicative of a limited, anecdotal perspective users take when considering people they know to be an accurate representation of the larger population.
Myth #2: Accessibility Is Only For Blind People.
Although many of the stipulations listed under the American Disability Act (ADA) are meant to support the visually impaired, there are many meant to help those with hearing, mobility, cognitive, and other disabilities. An example of this would be keyboard navigability:
"The website must be fully navigable by keyboard only."
Myth #3: The ADA Only Applies To Government Agencies.
Wrong. As explored above, many of the latest lawsuits brought to court have been filed against private businesses. While the ADA is meant especially for government organizations, recent precedents have opened up other businesses to liability in the event of noncompliance.
Even if you don't operate in the governmental sector, or receive federal funding, it's very likely that you're still subject to the ADA, or another form of accessibility standard. Even though the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 doesn't apply to non-governmental organizations, state or local laws often end up filling the same role.
For example, the ADA applies very broadly to organizations across the nation.
The ADA, according to the Department of Justice, requires any person, business or organization that is covered under the Act to communicate effectively about their programs, services, and activities. Furthermore, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have at this point become the internationally recognized benchmark for web accessibility.
Long story short?
You may not be specifically required to be compliant, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't, or that you're protected from liability for failing to do so. It's important to follow up on a local and state level to determine if there are laws that apply to your website's accessibility.
Myth #4: Accessibility Is Only A Concern For Web Developers.
With a proper understanding of the ADA, it's clear that many aspects of a website, including those that take place after the initial development, involve accessibility.
An example is color contrast:
"The text on the website must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background. While this may seem like a minor point, keep in mind that it can greatly affect the decision you make in the design phase of your website, such as the color scheme."
Myth #5: Accessibility Has No Additional Benefits Beyond Compliance.
Beyond the obvious benefit of making your website, and its information about your products and services more available to many more potential clients, there are other noted benefits as well.
A key advantage of ADA compliance is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It's true – by the very nature of ADA compliance, you'll likely see a boost in your SEO efforts as well.
The simplest way to look at it is that the more accessible your website is, the easier it is for people to both use and find. After all, that's what SEO is all about.
While it may not be the case with basic, first-level ADA compliance, at its most robust, you'll begin to see an overlap between compliance and SEO:
Myth #6: Accessibility Negatively Affects Design.
While your graphic designer may tend to balk at any sort of restriction when it comes to the color scheme, font preference, or otherwise, it's not generally the case with ADA-compliant design. To the contrary, accessibility websites tend to be more striking and visually appealing to all users, as they are prevented from having low-contrast palettes that would be boring in the first place.
Myth #7: Automated Tested Is Sufficient For ADA Compliance.
Unfortunately, even the most robust testing platforms only catch around 25% of the potential accessibility issues on a website. That's why human testing is an important part of the process. By enlisting the right IT company to help you build, test and confirm accessibility, you can eliminate many more issues.
Myth #8: My Website Was Accessible Two Years Ago, So It Still Is Now.
The reality is that accessibility is an ongoing process. The more the Internet and websites change, and the more we learn about how users with any degree of disability interface with their technology, the more this process can be refined and perfected. That's why it's important to reassess on a regular basis and make further efforts to improve your accessibility.
It's good to do your homework and understand what ADA compliance is about – however, if you're unsure about how to implement these standards (or even how to check if you're currently compliant), then don't worry, you don't have to do it on your own.
Just as you likely outsourced your website design and hosting in the first place, it can be smart to do the same with ADA compliance.
Many IT companies and website design firms will be knowledgeable of ADA compliance standards and can consult you on their implementation.
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Anthony holds dual degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from NYU.
He has over 30 years of experience in hardware design and software programming. Anthony specializes in computer and cloud networking and has collaborated with clients and third parties on creating custom software designs and is a web presence and accessibility compliance expert.