How Inclusive Was Your Brand Last Year?

Accessibility continued to be a hot topic in 2021 as it has for the last several years. Lawsuits alleging websites, apps and digital content were inaccessible for individuals with disabilities increased 64 percent within the first 6 months of 2021. Yikes!

The upward trend has many companies concerned, but the largest lawsuits that make the news are against enormous brands like Dominoes and Beyonce, so mid-sized businesses shouldn’t be too worried, right? No, two-thirds of all accessibility lawsuits are against companies with revenue of less than $50 million. Anyone can face an accessibility lawsuit.

But that isn’t the only reason you should be considering how inclusive your brand was last year. In the U.S. alone, 61 million adults live with a disability. That’s 26 percent, or 1 in 4 adults living in the United States. So, if your brand wasn’t accessible, you likely lost money from your inability to interact with these individuals.

How New Technology Is Impacting Accessibility

It seems like about every day a new website page builder tool hits the market. When setting up a do-it-yourself website, your options are endless. And while these page builders are outstanding for making it easy for anyone with any skill level to start a website, none of which are fully accessible, yet they make claims to be accessible. Confusing for sure.

Wix recently launched new built-in accessibility tools designed to help its customers manage accessibility and greet every digital customer with the means to view and interact with their websites. Kudos for them for jumping into the game.

While the new features are a great step forward in making the web more accessible to everyone, Wix still recognizes that it has areas for improvement. Notably, the new wizard cannot detect the following accessibility issues.

· Link text

· Images with text in them

· Proper color use

· Zoomed content

· Statements on the website’s accessibility and media alternatives

And Wix isn’t the only page builder that faces these issues. All page builders don’t give you the ability to control your website to make it fully accessible.

WordPress, however, is a CMS and not a page builder. But its flexibility and customizability can make just about any website fully accessible. Just watch out with out-of-the-box templates that lack the accessibility tools and functions to provide a truly inclusive experience.

Making PDFs Available to Everyone

A highly overlooked area of many companies’ digital presence and accessibility is PDFs. Universal access to digital documents ensures that everyone can learn more about what your company has to say.

But PDF accessibility is rather tedious as it involves programming the document for screen readers to read the content in the right order. Many PDFs feature columns, but screen readers simply read a page from left to right and don’t account for columned text. Not to mention the use of captions, alt text, or call-out boxes that add complications to the screen reading process.

And yet, PDFs also hold valuable and important information for everyone. As you consider how inclusive your brand is, consider whether these digital assets are accessible:

· Fact sheets

· Product sheets

· Annual reports

· ESG reports

· Corporate Social Responsibility reports

Why You Should Consider including an Accessibility Page

An accessibility page on your website can help you further engage with individuals with disabilities and provide them an opportunity to share their thoughts with you before filing a lawsuit against your company for lack of access.

Generally, the link to the accessibility page is in the footer of a website near the “Terms of Use” link. The page explains the efforts the company has made to make the page accessible and outlines the limitations to some tools and resources within the site that simply cannot be accessible.

One example of a tool that is inaccessible is Google Maps, which pieces together many images to show its maps. But those images lack alt text to explain what’s on-screen to those with low vision.

Not only do these pages welcome visitors with disabilities and explain limitations to accessibility, but they also start a conversation with customers to invite feedback. Explain the process for reaching out to your website or accessibility team to share feedback on the website. Including an accessibility page on your website shows that you’re thinking about all types of visitors and care about their experience.

How SEO is Tied to Accessibility

Making your website accessible is the right thing to do, but it also has many great impacts in addition to allowing you to interact with all types of visitors.

When you make your website accessible, you also make it simpler to communicate with search engines, thereby increasing your SEO value and rankings. Features like alt text and avoiding text within images helps explain your website to search engines as well as visitors with disabilities.

Accessibility brings more traffic to your website both in your ability to earn organic visitors and invite people of all abilities (permanent, temporary, or situational) to explore your content. And no matter whether you’re marketing digital services or working to garner support for a worthy cause, you want — and need — more traffic and interactions on your site.

The Largest Accessibility Lawsuits of 2021

Companies of all types are facing lawsuits due to poor accessibility on their websites and digital assets. Regardless of a company’s financial resources or the size of its legal team, individuals with disabilities continue to file lawsuits alleging poor accessibility.

Some of the most notable cases of 2021 are the following:

· ADA lawsuits against the Golden State Warriors’ website

· Blind users bring Class Action lawsuit against Robinhood

· ADA lawsuit against Uber for higher fares and longer wait times for customers using non-foldable wheelchairs

· Instacart ADA lawsuit for poor accessibility for individuals using screen readers

Those are just a few of the companies that faced lawsuits in 2021. An audit of the top retail websites found that 50 of them are not ADA-compliant, which means these lawsuit trends will continue for the foreseeable future.

WCAG 3.0 Standards Are Coming Soon

In August 2021, the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative released its updated 3.0 guidelines for review. The new standards will change various aspects of the existing ADA-compliant benchmarks for websites.

While the standards are not quite final, one thing we know for certain is that the new standards will require logos and icons to meet certain color contrast thresholds. Up until now, the standards only required alt text on logos and icons.

Finding Good Accessibility Firms and Partners

Website accessibility is a challenging hurdle for most businesses. Part of the challenge is web accessibility evaluation tools always need a human review. But finding experts skilled in this area is challenging.

During the consultation or interview process with a website accessibility firm or agency, you should evaluate that company’s website for accessibility. While this process isn’t perfect because online tools are limited, it will give you some insights into their skillset.

The WAVE evaluation tool is a good accessibility checker that should provide enough of a baseline to get you started in evaluating a potential partner. Just know that the tool might turn up more errors than a website actually has and miss others, which is why these tools are generally just a starting point for an accessibility assessment.

At Design Positive, we help brands make new friends by developing branding that resonates with your customers, while doing it all in an access-to-all approach.

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Design Positive

Design Positive

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Design Positive is a strategic branding and accessibility agency.