If you have been approached to improve the accessibility of your website, some may have expressed the negative aspects of avoiding an accessible website to motivate you. These negative aspects include that you could be one of several sites sued for violating ADA compliance in recent years. Some may site discrimination against those with disabilities and lack of 508 compliance if you are a federally funded organization. The truth is, they likely aren’t wrong, and ADA compliance is vital; however, let’s focus on the positive side of accessibility to understand why it is so important.
Websites typically aim to reach the largest audience in large or small areas. There are approximately 42.5 million people with disabilities in the U.S. alone, comprising 13% of the population, according to the 2021 U.S. census. This includes those with hearing, vision, and cognitive disabilities. Accessibility guidelines help to reach this demographic by making sure your content is readable and understandable by everyone.
Can you remember a time when you entered a bathroom without an accessible bathroom stall or a store without accessible ramps or curbs? At one point, the construction of handicap-accessible ramps and bathroom stalls was considered unnecessary. Some even argued against braille on elevator buttons because they were not “aesthetically pleasing.” Now, it is a code violation to build without them. In the digital world, sooner or later, this may hold true for websites to accommodate as many people as possible vising sites and taking in content.
Accessible websites are inherently more usable because they prioritize inclusivity and cater to a diverse range of users, irrespective of their abilities or disabilities. By incorporating accessibility features, such as alternative text for images, keyboard navigation, and readable fonts, websites ensure that everyone, including those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments, can easily navigate and comprehend content. This inclusivity not only adheres to ethical and legal standards but also enhances the overall user experience for all visitors. Accessible design promotes clear communication and facilitates seamless interaction, making information more readily available to a broader audience. Moreover, accessible websites often load faster and are compatible with various devices and assistive technologies, fostering a user-friendly environment that benefits everyone, regardless of their capabilities. The commitment to accessibility is an investment in user satisfaction and engagement, contributing to a more universally welcoming online space.
Making your website accessible doesn’t just make it more beneficial for those with disabilities. There is a term called the “curb-cut effect.” This effect is when you design something for disabled users but make it better for everyone. This term comes from the slope in the curb designed for wheelchairs, strollers, walkers, etc., to make it easier to get off the curb. This was not an easy design to execute across the country, but after it was done, not just those who needed it were using it; everyone was.
Accessible websites benefit both accessible and non-accessible users by providing a more user-friendly and inclusive online environment. Non-accessible users, who may not have specific impairments, still benefit from accessible design features. For instance, clear navigation, readable fonts, and well-structured content improve the overall user experience for everyone. Accessible sites tend to be more responsive and adaptable to different devices, creating a seamless browsing experience across various platforms. Moreover, incorporating accessibility features often results in faster-loading pages, contributing to a more efficient and enjoyable browsing experience for all users. In essence, the principles of accessibility not only cater to individuals with specific needs but also enhance the overall usability and satisfaction of the website for a broader audience.
Search engines are getting smarter by the day. They know what to look for and want to find sites with optimized content and adequately formatted structure. Because accessible websites, if they follow the standard guidelines, are optimized for content, they are ranked higher by search engines than those not as accessible. The W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium), the central international standards organization for the World Wide Web, publishes those guidelines. This means search engines rank accessible sites higher because they follow the same optimization rules that search engines look for.
Accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) share a symbiotic relationship, as accessible websites tend to align closely with the criteria that search engines favor. Search engines, like Google, prioritize user experience, and accessible design directly contributes to a positive user experience. When a website is accessible, it typically features clear and well-structured content, descriptive headings, and alternative text for images—elements that search engines use to understand and index web pages effectively. Moreover, accessible websites often load faster and are more responsive, which are factors that search engines consider in their ranking algorithms. As search engines aim to deliver the most relevant and user-friendly results, websites prioritizing accessibility rank higher in search engine results pages. By embracing accessibility practices, websites cater to a broader audience and enhance their visibility and performance in the competitive landscape of online search.
After knowing the benefits of your site accommodating those with disabilities, you can also find certain tax breaks and state and federal funding; you may qualify for tax breaks specifically for accessible websites, which may vary by jurisdiction, and it’s essential to consult with tax professionals or local tax authorities for the most current and accurate information. Some governments recognize the importance of web accessibility and may offer incentives or tax breaks to businesses that invest in making their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities. These incentives could be part of broader initiatives promoting inclusivity and equal access. Businesses should stay informed about evolving regulations or incentives related to web accessibility within their respective regions, as the landscape often changes and new accommodations for accessibility are released often.
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As you can see, the accessibility of your website can make all the difference for the overall user experience you provide, while remaining fully ACA compliant. Accessibility is something we should all want to do for the right reasons, not only when it’s too late or out of fear of prosecution.
Sharp Innovations is a modern, forward-thinking web design and digital marketing firm dedicated to helping our clients impact the internet in a meaningful way.
Contact Sharp Innovations if you want to know more about making your website accessible or click the button above for a free consultation and assessment of the current accessibility status of your site.