Why You Should Care About Website Accessibility
The World Wide Web, also known as the Internet, can easily be described as the most fantastic development of the communications age.
From paying a bill, ordering a pizza, doing our jobs, interacting with family and friends or finding answers to our every day questions use of the Internet has become an integral part of normal life for billions of people throughout the globe.
However, the overwhelming majority of websites are inaccessible for millions of disabled people even though our society is more receptive to the needs of the disabled and have laws requiring websites to be accessible.
Eugene Flaherty, an IT expert in Massachusetts who loves science fiction and has cerebral palsy. © Microsoft News How thousands of people with disabilities shape the technology you probably use every day
So why should you care about website accessibility?
Because leaving disabled people behind and denying them access to the information, products and/or services you offer on your website is just plain wrong.
It’s wrong as a matter of principle, it’s wrong as a neighbor, it’s wrong for your business and it’s against the law.
While you might have a general idea of the concepts, website accessibility means ensuring that everyone can access your website. This includes those whose abilities are changing such as the elderly.
Disabilities are not limited to those regarding sight, but also include physical and neurological impairments, those challenges regarding the ability to process information and those with problems hearing.
In a study put together by Google based on data from the World Bank (WDI, 2008) and CDC.gov (NHI Survey, 2008), it was found that…
“…there are more hard of hearing users in the United States than the population of Spain and more users who are blind and low-vision in the United States than the population of Canada.”
This represents a significant increase in audience, including those for e-Commece websites, for those companies with accessible websites. Moreover, those businesses who do not establish and maintain handicap accessible websites may lose significant reputation capital with their peers, the handicap population and the commuinity at large.
To the general public, such businesses may seem insensitive, deliberately indifferent or even actively acting in callous disregard of the needs of their aging and challenged neighbors.
Even the impression of such a stance is not a wise marketing or public relations position.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau nearly 57 million people, 20% of Americans, has a disability. With a nearly 90% Internet use rate, this indicates that millions of Americans with disabilities are on line. Further, not much has been done to address these problems.
These disabilities include;
8.1 million (3.3%) have a vision impairment. These people might rely on a screen magnifier or a screen reader, or might have a form of color blindness.
7.6 million (3.1%) have a hearing impairment. They might rely on transcripts and / or captions for audio and video media.
19.9 million (8.2%) have difficulty lifting or grasping. This could, for example impact their use of a mouse or keyboard.
15.2 million (6.3%) have a cognitive, mental, or emotional impairment which can be aggravated by online content.
The Law: The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA is a series of Federal statutes signed into law on July 26, 1990, by the late President George H.W. Bush.
The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the “economic and social mainstream of American life“, to enjoy access to the same employment opportunities and entertainment, purchase of goods and services and to participate in the same State and local government programs and services as those without disabilities.
No matter their size, income or status, every business large and small, sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC and corporation, non-profit organization and government agency must comply with the ADA. Only religious organizations are exempt from ADA requirements.
ADA violations can result in severe penalties. The maximum civil penalty for the first violation of website ADA compliance ranges from $55,000 to $75,000, a second violation rises from $110,000 to $150,000. This is in addition to attorney fees, court costs and expenses which can cost many thousands more.