Having a website is now critical for all organizations to participate in today’s business landscape. Almost 30 percent of consumers won’t consider transacting with companies that don’t have websites.
Consumers expect sites to look great and provide rich experiences while maintaining digital compliance. The emergence of regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have also made users more discerning of issues such as inclusion and accessibility.
According to a study of more than 10 million web pages by web accessibility platform accessiBe, 98% of websites fail to fully pass the requirements for compliance. This has even led to the steady increase in web accessibility-related lawsuits against companies.
Unfortunately, creating feature-rich and compliant websites demands technical expertise and financial resources that small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) typically don’t have. To address this, SMBs have turned toward design agencies for their site development needs.
As such, these agencies are now the one feeling the pressure to address their clients’ needs. To achieve digital compliance, agencies must evaluate all the sites under their care and make the necessary modifications to ensure that these sites pass the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The Need for Digital Accessibility
Despite the internet being often viewed as a tool that democratizes knowledge and services to all, it’s still largely inaccessible to about one billion people with disabilities. Majority of websites don’t offer functionalities that accommodate assistive technologies that enable people with disabilities to browse the web and consume content.
Users have already made their frustrations known. A number of companies who fail to apply accessibility standards to their websites are now facing ADA-related lawsuits.
In 2018, at least 2,258 web accessibility lawsuits have been filed in federal court.
Fast-food company Burger King, for example, was sued for allegedly not being fully accessible to people with visual impairments. According to the plaintiff, Burger King’s site lacks alt texts that are necessary for screen readers to describe images to the visually impaired.
The lawsuit aims to force Burger King to implement policies to ensure that its website is accessible to visually-impaired consumers. Such lawsuits can result in costly legal fees and hefty fines.
But regardless of the legal ramifications, striving for a more inclusive internet is a must. For companies, failing to do so means lost business opportunities.
Working-age people with disabilities reportedly have a disposable income of about $490 billion USD. This means that making websites accessible not only provides equal access to services for all, but it also allows companies to widen their reach and potentially increase their revenue.
Challenges of Digital Compliance
Design agencies face several challenges in making clients’ sites accessible.
Performing remediations for various websites of multiple clients require agencies to do comprehensive programming modifications to apply accessibility standards. They must add functionalities that cater to people with different disabilities.
For example, sites must provide built-in dictionaries, offer support for alternative keyboards, and contain content with parsed data to ensure that they are compatible with various assistive technologies.
Expensive and time-consuming efforts
Fixing accessibility issues and adding functionalities are time-intensive and financially demanding efforts. Reviewing multiple websites and making changes to numerous web pages can be tedious and overwhelming.
Agencies may have to hire highly skilled programmers and increase their manpower. This may not be cost-effective and affect their pricing, making their services less affordable to SMBs.
Making modifications isn’t enough though. Design agencies must also perform quality assurance testing to guarantee that the changes they made won’t negatively affect the performance of their sites.
They must also ensure that the added functionalities in their sites pass the stringent WCAG success criteria.
How Accessibility Platforms Help Agencies with Digital Compliance
Web accessibility platforms come as a boon for web design and digital agencies.
We’ll use accessiBe as an example to implement web accessibility:
The platform leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically scan websites and instantly fix their accessibility issues.
accessiBe addresses the most common accessibility issues that websites have. It allows sites to have various functionalities including:
Visual customization and image recognition
The platform adds an accessibility panel to allow users to adjust font size, type, and spacing based on their needs. It also provides accurate alt texts to enable screen readers to describe images to the visually impaired.
The platform allows people with epilepsy to disable animations that can trigger seizures.
accessiBe allows those with motor impairments to navigate the sites using the TAB and ENTER keys.
accessiBe offers a built-in dictionary to help the elderly and people with cognitive impairment to understand content with unfamiliar words and expressions.
For design agencies, the accessibility platforms provide key benefits which include:
Automated changes at scale
Finally, accessiBe allows agencies to quickly apply these modifications to the hundreds of sites under their management. They won’t have any problems in making multiple sites ADA-compliant.
Agencies won’t have to hire additional staff to perform the necessary site remediations for their clients. The effort and money they save from not having to manually fix the accessibility issues of the sites under their care will allow them to keep their fees and services accessible for SMBs.
A More Accessible Web
The emergence of web accessibility platforms is beneficial to all. Design agencies will be able to easily and instantly make their sites ADA-compliant in a cost-effective way.
This will keep their services affordable and will greatly help SMBs who rely on them for the creation of their digital channels. As a result, SMBs will be able to have accessible websites and offer their products and services to all, including persons with disability.
Ultimately, with everyone’s participation with digital compliance, a truly inclusive internet is possible.