Around the world, 15% of the population have a disability. In the USA 26% of adults live with some form of disability according to the CDC. Making websites that are accessible to everyone including people with disabilities is a goal that most would agree is fair. Yet the vast majority of websites today do not meet established accessibility standards and as a result could be considered broken and unusable to many potential customers. This has been the case since the beginning of the internet but it’s changing quickly, and ignoring it could lead to big fines and lawsuits that can become very expensive.
What Is Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility means that a website is designed such that everyone can navigate, understand and interact with it’s content. Accessibility greatly benefits those who are blind, have low vision, have impaired mobility, are prone to seizures, have a learning or developmental disability, hearing loss and those who are aging.
Currently, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) WCAG 2.0 Level AA is used in most accessibility rules and regulations around the world, including in Canada and in the USA. To meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA conformance, the website is usable and understandable for the majority of people with or without disabilities.
One part of meeting accessibility guidelines involves making technical changes to the content of the website itself, and another part involves providing tools so those that need them can use them to navigate, understand and interact with your website.
The momentum towards digital accessibility has been building. In the USA, Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability in the activities of public accommodations.” While the law was enacted primarily to focus on obstacles at physical locations, it’s being applied to websites as well. In the last few years there have been thousands of lawsuits filed against businesses of all sizes. I’m aware of businesses that out of the blue received a letter from a lawyer containing a lawsuit, and dealing with it can be expensive.
In Canada, by January 1, 2021 all public sector organizations and private organizations with 50+ employees are required to ensure their public-facing web content meets WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria. Penalties for non-compliance are steep. Depending on the severity of the violation, failure to comply can result in fines up to $50,000 per day for individuals, and up to $100,000 per day for corporations. By June 30, 2021, all organizations with 20+ employees must file an accessibility compliance report with the Government of Ontario indicating whether or not they are in compliance with AODA requirements. So as you can see, this requirement is trickling down and will no doubt be required by everyone sooner than later.
There are 3 big reasons to take action and make your website accessible to everyone asap.
- Reduce your legal risk.
- Boost your brand image.
- Tap into a larger consumer base.
How Can I Make My Website Compliant?
Step 1 is to identify what needs to be fixed and what needs to be enhanced. There are tools out there that can tell you how your website is deficient and what needs to be fixed, such as alt tags and descriptions on every image, descriptive link text, acceptable contrast levels from foreground to background, keyboard accessibility for all content and more. In addition, there needs to be a way for visitors to make adjustments to allow them to navigate, understand and interact with your content. For most SMB’s this is a daunting task. Fortunately at WSI we’ve developed a partnership to offer our clients a turnkey solution.
WSI’s Turnkey Solution For Certified Compliance
We offer a fully managed solution coupling industry leading technology with a team of certified digital accessibility experts. You’re protected from day one, our solution is always on, and we certify your compliance. In addition to the many technical fixes mentioned above, our solution also offers a tool bar that can be accessed on your website by anyone that needs to make changes to be able to navigate and understand your website. The other great thing is that over time, as your website changes and more importantly as regulations change (as they always do), you have a team of experts making sure your website keeps up too and is always compliant.
Pricing depends on your website’s visitor volume and complexity, basic websites begin as low as just $39 per month and provided your website gets 20,000 page views per month or less it will likely not exceed $99 per month.
How Does The Toolbar Display?
When someone comes to your website they’ll see an icon at the bottom right corner as seen in the image below.
If someone clicks on that icon, they unlock the toolbar to give them many options to improve accessibility. It initially has an extra popup to explain the tools at their disposal as seen below.
Once they close the added info they will be left with just the toolbar that will display for them on every page. Of course they also have the option to close that toolbar if they choose too.
Contact us today if you want to update your website so that everyone can navigate, understand and interact with it. Not only is it important legally, but it will open your website up to more potential customers and it’s just the right thing to do.
Ken Arp, Digital Marketing Expert & Owner
WSI Total Internet Solutions