Why digital accessibility? Our experts at Perkins Access explain how updated federal regulations on website accessibility and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are designed to open doors for every user, and outline steps organizations must take to become compliant.
Why should digital accessibility be top-of-mind for executives?
It should be top-of-mind for all organizations. Across government and all industries, the move to digital services and information continues to accelerate. We have to consider access to digital assets in the same way we have traditionally looked at physical locations. Then periodic WCAG and ADA updates aim to ensure that our growing digital world is available to Americans with disabilities. That’s 1 in 4 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How does digital accessibility impact business growth?
The bottom line is that no one can avoid the issue of accessibility. An estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide have some sort of vision impairment and 36 million of those individuals are blind, per the World Health Organization.
From a business perspective, think about the impact this could have on your organization. Could you benefit from millions of potential new customers having access to your website?
What is the penalty for websites that aren’t compliant?
Even before new regulations are in place, companies that neglect digital and website accessibility pay a high price. The National Law Review reports that Target, H&R Block, Peapod, eBay and even the state of Ohio have been sued over this issue.
What CIOs and business and government leaders must recognize is that accessibility is a prerequisite for anything that they do. It can’t be pushed down the road; digital accessibility is urgent, and it needs to be dealt with now.
So how can organizations ensure they’re compliant with today’s digital accessibility laws and regulations?
There are three easy steps to ensure your organization gets accessibility right.
- Bring in someone who really understands the space. That is to say, you need someone who understands how to create a digital experience that accommodates all the different types of disabilities, while not sacrificing your overall user experience. If you have that kind of expertise in-house, empower them to educate you, identify the resources you need and help you staff up. If not, enlist the skills of a recognized expert to consult, guide and bring you into compliance. Once you’re on the right road, maintain follow-up consults to ensure new digital products or assets are accessible from the start.
- Identify the right people to tackle accessibility and develop a comprehensive road map toward compliance with the ADA and WCAG updates. This is typically a combination of developers, UX designers, content creators and even legal counsel. It won’t happen overnight, but with the right people with the right skill sets in place, you can be sure that important details don’t slip through the cracks. And keep in mind, if it doesn’t work for everybody, it doesn’t work.
- Establish a maintenance plan to ensure that future updates or changes to your website are made to be accessible. Think about website maintenance the way you do with your car: would you go 50,000 miles without an oil change? Then why add new web pages without building in accessibility? It’s not only easier, it’s also more cost effective long-term.
Any final thoughts?
To make your digital assets accessible, you need to build a part of your organization that understands the landscape and is willing to embrace accessibility policies. Business leaders have a lot of responsibilities, and that’s why it’s important for you to have a plan to manage accessibility before it’s too late. If you tackle it early and do it right, you will always have your finger on the pulse of how your organization is dealing with accessibility.