Commercial websites are typically designed to appeal to the most massive audience possible, making it essential that they be accessible to people with disabilities.
While there are tens of millions of Americans with disabilities, World Bank estimates that there are nearly a billion people on Earth living with a disability.
Website accessibility checkers can help you reach this audience by showing where your site falls short when it comes to accessibility and what steps you need to take to remedy those flaws.
Broadly speaking, there are three main ways a website accessibility checker can help improve your site’s performance:
- Increase traffic
- Reduce the risk of lawsuits due to claims your site is inaccessible to those with disabilities
- Boost sales
Before we explore how website accessibility checkers can enable your site to benefit in these ways, we’ll take a look at what exactly is meant by “website accessibility.”
What Does Website Accessibility Mean?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 mandates that websites be accessible for all users, including those with disabilities. A website is said to be accessible when it is designed so that it can easily be used by people with disabilities. This means that they can perceive, understand and navigate a website and interact with the site where appropriate. A wide variety of disabilities are covered under the umbrella of accessibility, including:
Making your website accessible can provide benefits to users without disabilities, both through situational applications and by improving overall website design. Situational impediments to website accessibility include:
- Individuals, often located in rural areas, who don’t have access to fast internet service or have limited bandwidth
- Individuals experiencing temporary disabilities due to an accident or injury of some sort
- Individuals using the web in areas where there is bright sunlight, loud noise or other impediments
- Individuals using smart phones, watches or other devices with limited screen space
Website accessibility encompasses a variety of tools used to help people with disabilities, including screen readers, alternate keyboard input devices, web browsers and specialized hardware. For instance, a blind person can use screen reader software to obtain an audio description of a website’s contents, or an individual without full use of their hands might use a keyboard or voice reader instead of a mouse.
Website accessibility checkers help commercial websites determine whether they are in compliance with the primary guidelines established to enable accessible website design; these are known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). They are compiled by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative.
By following these guidelines, businesses can ensure that their site is in compliance with the technical requirements specified in WCAG.
By using a website accessibility checker to make sure that your website is easy for people with disabilities to use, you can substantially boost the number of visitors able to effectively navigate your site – encouraging them to become repeat visitors and to recommend your site to their friends.
The increased traffic a website accessibility tracker can help generate does not strictly stem from accommodating people with disabilities. Following the WCAG guidelines helps improve its appeal to web surfers of all types.
A well-designed website is like a beautifully constructed house or restaurant with inviting ambience – it draws people to it and makes them want to extend their stay when they get there.
The WCAG 2.1 guidelines encompass the following design principles:
- Improve site readability
- Enable intuitive navigation
- Promote a clutter-free layout
Comply with the Law
Federal law, in the form of the ADA, says that businesses that are open to the public must make reasonable efforts to ensure that their facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. Over time, this law has been interpreted to apply to public websites as well as to physical facilities. To comply with the law, adhering to WCAG 2.1 standards is generally accepted to be sufficient to establish compliance with the ADA.
Websites that don’t comply with the law run the risk of lawsuits. The cost of defending against such suits, even if you win, can be of magnitude that exceeds the cost of updating the site.
In recent years, lawsuits against companies such as Five Guys Enterprises, Hobby Lobby Stores and Winn-Dixie Stores alleging that these firms’ websites were not accessible to people with disabilities have resulted in rulings supporting the plaintiffs’ claims.
To avoid facing the potential expense and bad publicity associated with accessibility lawsuits, a highly cost-effective step is to employ a website accessibility checker to evaluate the accessibility of your site to people with disabilities.
Because a website that is designed for accessibility improves the user experience as a whole, benefiting all users, not just those with disabilities, accessibility can help boost sales by increasing the attractiveness of your brand and website to its users.
While increasing traffic to your website is an important objective, the ultimate goal is to increase sales on your site. The sales process can encompass a variety of steps, whether direct purchases of your products or services or using the process of conversions – where visitors to your site perform actions such as signing up for your email list or requesting more information on a product before a sale is made. To optimize the process, user-friendly design is crucial to converting visitors to your site into customers.
By complying with WCAG guidelines, you can design your site in a manner that enables efficient navigation from page to page and within a page.
This includes making it as easy as possible for your visitors to access functionality linked to the buying or conversion process. It’s important to note that inaccessibilities in transactional mechanisms often make the most negative impact – imagine trying to cross a bridge where a large gap is missing in the first few steps.
You can use a website accessibility checker to verify that your website is using design principles that make it possible for people with disabilities, and people in general, to easily access all the functionality on your site. Beautiful images are one thing, but unless your website combines aesthetics with efficacy, you are likely to find that your sales are limited by its design.
By using a website accessibility checker to make sure your site is properly designed to be accessible to those with disabilities, you can boost your site’s ability to make sales by increasing the site’s appeal to people with disabilities and everyone else, given the user-friendly principles incorporated in the WCAG guidelines.
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