This past summer, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most comprehensive legislation in history addressing rights for people with disabilities. While this milestone was an opportunity to celebrate the leadership of those who made the passage of the ADA possible, it’s also important to realize how far we have yet to go.
Even before the pandemic, it was almost impossible to fully participate in modern society without access to information and services online. Now that everything from banking to education to healthcare has gone virtual, it’s critically important to consider how accessible your organization’s digital experiences are for people with disabilities.
Accessibility is a term we use to describe the usability of a digital product (like a website or a mobile app) for people with a cognitive, visual, auditory, or motor skill impairment. Accessible websites, for example, follow a hierarchical structure, can be read by a screen reader, make use of intuitive interactive elements, and include subtitles with any audiovisual content.
As recently as 2019, around 70% of ecommerce, news, and government websites were categorized as “inaccessible,” or unusable for people with a disability. We have a moral responsibility to our fellow citizens to remove those barriers to information, services, and human connection. It’s also important to understand the business risk associated with ignoring web accessibility.
Consider these facts:
Nearly one in four people in the U.S. have a disability, and the global spending power of people with disabilities is estimated to be nearly $7 trillion.
Among consumers with a disability, 82% would opt to purchase from an accessible website over an inaccessible one.
The number of accessibility lawsuits tripled from 2017 to 2018, then rose by another 7% in 2019.
Furthermore, the criteria in the most recent version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) overlap significantly with best practices for interactive and visual design, user experience, and search engine optimization (SEO). Accessibility creates a better digital experience for everyone, not just for people with disabilities, so the return on investing in inclusive design is extremely high.
Regardless of how much of our daily lives remain online after the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot continue to work towards equity without addressing web accessibility. If you haven’t started to assess your digital footprint for usability, start now.