If you’re not familiar with the definition of website accessibility, Monsido explains that it allows all users to access and interact with all of the information available on a website. It can apply to people with special needs, but can also be important for everyone else who needs websites to load quickly, be easy to navigate and to be mobile-friendly. Websites that are not accessible are frustrating to say the least, and provide poor experiences for users. And know this: one billion of the Earth’s population lives with at least one disability.
About Having Accessible Websites
While poorly performing websites might be a minor inconvenience for people who don’t have disabilities, it can totally restrict internet use for others. Not only is it frustrating; potential customers will search elsewhere for their needs and you could also end up facing a lawsuit. Mannix Marketing reports that companies have been sued for having websites that weren’t coded to be used by people with certain disabilities. They also post that independent lodging properties have gotten demand letters claiming that the accessibility features were not adequately described on their websites.
The five disabilities that should be considered when designing website accessibility include:
Hearing: impairments and deafness
Vision: Low vision, color blindness, blindness
Neurological: Conditions involving the central and peripheral nervous systems like Parkinson’s disease
Motor: Disabilities like muscle slowness and limited fine motor control
Cognitive: Learning disabilities, attention and logic disorders.
What are the Requirements for Web Accessibility?
For a website to be deemed accessible, it must adhere to certain guidelines. The first category is WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 AA Standards; Accessibility Works explains that this is the “internationally-recognized set of guidelines for digital accessibility.” There are a long list of requirements, but to summarize, accessible websites must be presented to users in ways that they can perceive, have operable user interface components that the disabled can use, and provide understandable information. The content also has to robust enough to be reliably interpreted by a wide variety of users and assistive technologies.
Lodging facilities also must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(e)(1). These websites must clearly describe their accessibility features, and like WCAG, this rule totally makes sense. Someone in a wheelchair who mistakenly booked a room that isn’t handicapped-accessible would end up in a terrible situation, especially if there were no other rooms available.
Making Websites Accessible
Web accessibility provides tools and technologies that can help with the perception, navigation, understanding and interaction for people with disabilities. It should be built into your web development and design process rather than retrofitting things afterwards, but people often find themselves having to do this. Sites like Accessibility Checker and Wave offer website accessibility checker software, and Web Accessibility Initiative lists over 150 other ones. A company that promises to solve your problem at a surprisingly low cost is likely making false promises, so shop around and read all of the fine print.
Accessibility Works recommends getting a 3-factor WCAG A, AA audit, since automated ones are not as interpretive and nuanced; this source claims that most only detect 30% of WCAG issues. They add that human testing is also essential as well. Audits are not cheap; you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 plus the cost of remediation. There is some good news, though: The IRS offers a $5,000 tax to qualifying businesses who make their websites accessible.