Establishing a startup company is no easy process. In this modern world, aside from investing in marketing your products and services, you should also invest in making your site accessible. Optimizing your site is a better user experience for everyone, including people with disabilities (PWDs).
Statistics show that 15 percent of our world’s population experience significant disabilities. There are more than a hundred million PWD globally and it’s still increasing. Business-wise, it helps to consider the working-age of PWD adults (in the U.S. alone) with an approximately $490 billion disposable income.
Morally and from an ethical perspective, making your websites accessible should be non-negotiable. Moreover, various laws and policies were approved to protect PWDs from discrimination.
Aside from a moral obligation, below are some (beneficial) reasons why every startup should consider web accessibility:
- Complying with relevant laws and policies protect you from costly litigations
- Avoids negative impression from potential customers
- Encourages repeat customers
- Improves overall user experience for everyone
- Avoids alienating those with temporary and permanent disabilities, as well as those with situational limitations
- Improves search engine ranking (SEO)
In this article, we’ll provide a quick rundown of everything you need to know about web accessibility, and how you can make your site more accessible as a startup.
What is Web Accessibility and WCAG 2.1?
In general, accessibility refers to the design of products and/or services to be more readily available and usable for everyone. It should cater to as many individuals as possible, including those with vision, motor, hearing, and cognitive disabilities; and even those with low, limited, or expensive bandwidth. The modern term “web accessibility” primarily refers to the accessibility of websites, tools, mobile and electronic technologies.
Individuals with disabilities thereby should be able to independently navigate, use, interact, and make a valuable contribution without any barriers. Presently, PWDs can use online resources and applications with the help of assistive technologies such as screen readers, speech recognition software, Braille terminals, and alternative keyboards.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) aims at providing a single shared standard for accessibility—specifically web content—to meet the needs of people around the world. It is a valuable resource in making web content more accessible to persons with disabilities.
Published in June 2018, the WCAG 2.1 version lays down expansive recommendations for making web content more accessible. It has guidelines to make web content reach a wider range of individuals with disabilities. It covers web content accessibility on laptops, desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.
Web Accessibility Law and Policies
Several countries took the initiative to enact laws and policies to make the Web more accessible for all individuals. Below is an overview of such laws and policies.
New EU directive: Law on the accessibility of websites & mobile applications of public sector bodies
In line with Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the EU published a new directive which took effect on December 22, 2016—directing and making all public sector bodies’ websites and mobile apps more accessible to people with disabilities, specifically those visually and hearing impaired. Also, it includes public services and assistive devices for the disabled.
American with Disabilities Act (ADA) law aims in guaranteeing equal opportunities for PWDs in all areas of public life such as public accommodations, telecommunication, transportation, employment, local and state government services.
As a startup business, you should be ADA compliant to avoid litigation. Even though there’s no clear provision in the law that regulates discrimination against web accessibility. Since on several occasions, the Federal Court ruled that website accessibility fulfills the intent and purpose of ADA by reducing the business and commerce barriers for PWDs.
Making Your Website Accessible
The following are tips to make your website more accessible.
1. Alternative Text for Images
Use alternative text for images (alt text) as it’s web crawler- and screen reader-friendly as well as with other similar technologies. It’s also great for site optimization since Search Engines rely heavily on alt texts when indexing photos.
2. Keyboard Input
Keyboard input is important for users with motor disabilities like muscle weakness or lack of muscle control; the blind and visually impaired persons.
3. Transcripts for Audio
Transcripts for video and audio is beneficial for everyone, particularly for PWDs such as deaf and blind users. Allowing them access to the content with the use of Braille or other devices.
4. Use Headers to Structure Your Content Correctly
The use of headers such as H1, H2, etc to properly structure your content is especially beneficial to users who use a screen reader.
5. Design Your Forms for Accessibility
Design your forms for accessibility by making it simple and easy. Doing so benefits everybody, especially those with cognitive or limited dexterity disabilities, and people using speech input or screen readers.
6. Avoid Automatic Media and Navigation
Automatic media and navigation cause major concern for accessibility, especially those using screen readers. Some may be annoyed by the noise it produces. While others will be frustrated if they still need time to absorb the information before going to the next slide.
7. Making Your App Accessible
App design and features could only be considered accessible if it is inclusive. Consider readability, organization, and color use.
The web is designed to work for everyone. However, certain barriers prevent the full potential of web accessibility. Thus, laws and policies were enacted to meet the needs of all individuals.