How Website Accessibility Affects Your Brand’s Reputation and Success

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability, and the World Health Organization has detailed in its World Report on Disability that 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. Focusing on UK consumers in particular, the most recent (2019) research from the Click-Away Pound Report found that over four million people in this country “…have abandoned a shopping website retail because of the hurdles they have encountered”, at the expense of retailers and other sellers of £17.1 billion ($22.3 billion).

If your business is online, it can suffer harm even beyond those missed sales opportunities if people with disabilities cannot access its website. If it was not built to the accessible design standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it could result in legal action, including settlements and penalties.

So, it is clear that a brand should consider website accessibility to increase its credibility and also generate more sales and revenue.

Let’s explore in more detail the consequences of not doing so.

Low brand engagement

Accessible By Design found in a survey that people with visual, hearing, cognitive and speech disabilities respond negatively to companies that fail to achieve accessibility and usability. 40% of respondents had negative action directed at such a company (would not buy from the brands or recommend them to others), and 81% gave a generally negative response – felt disconnected from the brands and assumed they were unreliable.

These negative responses can be a company’s nightmare experience – one of the reasons why a commitment to accessibility is a priority in adopting corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Related: Why your website should be accessible to everyone

Legal issues

The latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice were released in 2017, deeming adherence to the ADA essential for websites in two categories: those owned or funded by state or local governments and those held by companies.

Major lawsuits on the ADA website can be filed against companies known as “public accommodations” under the law. Cases involving related websites, including private ones, are known as Title III claims. (Laws against government websites are classified as Title II claims).

Besides the costs (including legal fees) of handling the lawsuits themselves, failure to meet ADA compliance standards could expose you to public relations issues and the need to completely rebuild your website.

Multidimensional Benefits of Accessibility

A widely accessible design makes it easy for users to interact with your website. More importantly, it makes it convenient for people with and without disabilities to get there. A compelling analogy might be a showroom in a well-structured, easy-to-access space: visitors will then not need to cancel the attention of showroom workers to provide description and direction. . Good site accessibility provides access to information and interaction for people with or without special needs.

Related: Yes, AI can make business websites accessible to everyone

How to Meet Compliance Standards

A good place to start is to review the international standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which aim to make content more accessible to people with disabilities. A new draft is expected to be completed by June 2022, but in the meantime you can access the new Success Criteria (additional details can be found in the WCAG Compliance section), which are categorized into three levels: A, AA and AAA. Not all sites are required to pass the latest and most rigorous standard, but it is recommended that a commercial site achieve both AA rating and be 100% ADA compliant.

Finally, after you’ve finished building your site with compliance in mind, you can assess it using an accessibility checker to identify any issues that make it difficult for the disabled community to navigate.

ADA compliance will make your brand inclusive and accessible to all users and potential customers. It gives your business a competitive edge and provides a better user experience on all browsing platforms. This reduces the risk of lawsuits, increases your audience and boosts your business reputation.

About William G. Patrick

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