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What is Accessibility and Why Does it Matter?

Lennie Appelquist

Accessibility matters. You’d be hard-pressed to find a public building today that doesn’t feature a ramp or elevator. That’s because as a society, we have come to the moral consensus that people with disabilities are just as entitled to access public spaces as able-bodied people. Plus, it’s the law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in private entities that are considered public accommodations, such as schools, stores, and doctors’ offices. 

But while it’s generally accepted that individuals with disabilities can’t be barred from physical locations, we don’t often think about the challenges they may run into with virtual platforms. Just like we have taken measures as a society to make public buildings accessible to all people, we must now expand accessibility to the online world – not only to remain in compliance with the ADA, but because it’s the right thing to do. 

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility is the practice of making products, services, locations, and now websites usable for anyone who encounters them. It should not be confused with usability, which refers to whether a website’s design is effective and satisfying overall; accessibility focuses specifically on whether all users can access an equivalent experience on a website, regardless of any disabilities they may have.

There are multiple disabilities that may prevent people from accessing online content, but some of the most common barriers include visual, auditory, mobility, and cognitive impairments. All of these conditions require specific digital accommodations, which online businesses must provide in order to comply with the ADA. 

Commonsense Accessibility Guidelines and Protocols

There are a few basic accessibility features all businesses should implement on their sites to make their content usable for people with the common disabilities listed above. 

People with visual impairments, including blindness, color-blindness, and low-level vision, may require screen magnifiers or software zoom capabilities to read content. Many visually impaired people also rely on screen readers, which read the text on the screen to them out loud. 

People with auditory impairments may have some degree of hearing loss or be completely deaf. They might struggle to interact with the videos, podcasts, music, or other soundbites posted on your website. Auditory accessibility involves providing text as an alternative, which can be in the form of captions or complete transcripts, depending on the type of media. 

People with mobility impairments may struggle to physically use their devices, whether because of old age, injury, or other medical conditions. While able-bodied people often take for granted how easy it is to move the computer mouse, this task is impossible for many people, so it’s important to implement keyboard accessibility. Rather than move the mouse to navigate the website, physically impaired people could instead access the necessary controls through a single button. 

People with cognitive impairments, including dyslexia, ADHD, and mental illness, may struggle to comprehend the content that is posted on a business’s website, especially if the layout is inconsistent from page to page. These people may benefit from plain-language text, focused content, consistent layouts, and multiple options for consuming the content, such as through video and text. 

Why Does Accessibility Matter for Your Business?

Making your business’s web content accessible for everyone is not only the right thing to do; it is also the law. Thousands of legal rulings over the past few years have confirmed that the ADA applies to online platforms, including 3,550 lawsuits in 2020 alone. The general consensus among these cases is that if the technology exists that allows a business to make its website more accessible, then that business is legally obligated to do so. 

The good news is that improving accessibility for people with disabilities benefits all users by improving the site’s overall experience. While video captions may be necessary for someone with a hearing impairment, they will also be helpful for a viewer watching the content on mute. Likewise, using plain language and concise sentences will not only help people with cognitive disabilities, but it will also make it easier for all visitors to read the information, and it can boost your SEO.

Online accessibility is just as important as physical accessibility, especially as the world becomes increasingly digitalized. That’s why we have partnered with AccessiBe, the #1 automated web accessibility Solution for ADA & WCAG compliance.

It’s automated solution will ensure your site is in compliance with the ADA, protect you from potential lawsuits, and most importantly, improve your content for everyone who visits your page. 

Is Your Website Accessible?

Talk to one of our team members about making your site ADA compliant today.

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