One in four American adults – that’s 61 million people – suffer from some form of disability. People with disabilities generally have a hard time using the web. The reason for this stems from website owners and companies with an online presence failing to take the necessary steps to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
Domino’s was sued by a blind person who wasn’t able to order food on both their website and mobile app. The pizza giant lost the case, which went all the way up to the Supreme Court, because it violated that person’s rights under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Domino’s wasn’t the only company to get sued for not having their online assets accessible; in 2019, a total of 2,256 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal courts. This number is much lower than it should be. According to Israeli startup accessiBe’s 2020 Web Accessibility Report, after scanning 10 million web pages of SMBs, 98% failed compliance requirements and therefore are exposed to lawsuits.
The Case for Web Accessibility
Providing accessibility for people with disabilities across online assets is not a matter of choice, but a legal requirement. Since a quarter of Americans need assistance browsing the web, it is arguably a moral obligation as well. Also, disregarding 25% of potential traffic is a bad business decision.
So why are the vast majority of websites not accessible? Why do so many businesses risk legal action taken against them and fail to provide equal access to their websites?
A few reasons come to mind. First, enabling accessibility seems to be complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Second, many small and medium businesses think that lawsuits are directed only at mega brands. Third, website owners choose ‘one-click’ accessibility solutions that promise compliance but actually don’t deliver, leaving the website to believe it is accessible when in actuality it isn’t. And last, lack of awareness. This is somewhat infuriating; no brick-and-mortar business with stairs is unaware of the need for a wheelchair ramp, so online businesses should get their obligations as service providers straight.
Why Current Solutions Fail to Provide True Web Accessibility
The web accessibility ‘market’ was dominated by two opposing solutions. On one hand, some service companies offered manual audit and remediation for websites, which comprised of a prolonged and expensive solution. The second solution consisted of instant and affordable accessibility widgets that were installed on websites in a ‘click of a button’. Unfortunately, neither of these solutions hold water.
The audit and remediation manual service is a thorough process carried out by professionals but as websites of today are dynamic, updated constantly, they fall out of compliance in a matter of months if not weeks.
The accessibility widgets, on the other hand, provide a very limited solution. Here’s why: WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), the international standard for web accessibility created by W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium), lays out the do’s and don’ts for how websites should be accessible. 70% of the guidelines pertain to Screen Reader and keyboard navigation compatibility; Screen Reader is software used by blind and visually-impaired persons, and keyboard navigation is how people with motor disabilities preventing them from using a mouse browse the web. Accommodation of these guidelines is done on the code-level of the website. The other 30% of the guidelines deal with user interface and appearance, mostly addressing users with cognitive disabilities. Accessibility widgets ‘solve’ most of the user interface and appearance guidelines, but none of the Screen Reader and keyboard navigation compatibility issues.
AI + Automation Ensures Continuous Web Accessibility
accessiBe, a Tel Aviv-based startup, realized the real and desperate need for a web accessibility solution that is both reasonably priced and achieves complete compliance. The answer they found is in AI – a proprietary engine that scans websites for accessibility issues and fixes them, basically mirroring the manual process of audit and remediation. Only accessiBe completes the entire process in 48 hours, compared to the months a manual service would take, and offers their solution for an affordable price.
Their AI engine continues to scan websites every 24 hours, and when new accessibility issues emerge as companies update their websites with new content, fixes them on the fly. This continuous-auditing ensures that websites remain accessible, which is a major win point for online businesses. accessiBe then allows websites to put accessibility on ‘auto pilot’ – giving companies one less thing to worry about.
Businesses with an online presence have an obligation to provide equal access to all individuals. Making their website accessible to people with disabilities should be a top priority for companies.
How accessible is YOUR website?