For many startups, web accessibility is not exactly priority. Startups are all about iterating and improving a product, and also about rapidly scaling.
It shouldn’t be the case, though. Being web accessible is not just a vanity feature. It is a regulatory requirement when doing business in certain markets. It can also contribute to market growth and even better search visibility.
The responsibility of ensuring website accessibility directly involves web developers, but it also ultimately rests upon business owners or decision-makers — as they will be the ones liable for any regulatory violations due to lack of access.
Shir Ekerling, Chief Executive Officer at accessiBe, an AI-based platform that automates the process of making websites accessible writes:
“Accessibility is not something that is in most business owners’ priorities, marketing, hiring, customer service, and sales are (obviously)”
“It’s our job, as developers and designers, to conceive and achieve technological breakthroughs to make websites compliant despite the topic not being a priority to business owners because it never will be.”
It’s not easy to achieve, however. “To put it bluntly, accessibility is extremely difficult to achieve manually,” Ekerling adds. The company recently did an analysis of 10 million websites globally and found glaring accessibility gaps, which translate to a lot of lost opportunities and even potential lawsuits.
Here are some reasons to ensure this is done during the process of planning and building your web assets.
Web accessibility is a legal requirement
Many major markets have legislation for accessibility, and digital media is one such area that falls under such regulations. Companies in the U.S., for instance, need to comply with the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Companies that plan to offer e-commerce in Ontario need to comply with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). In Israel, there are the SI 5568 guidelines. In the European Union, businesses need to comply with the EN 301549 European accessibility standards.
There are corresponding penalties for the failure to comply with these requisites. For instance, fines of up to $55,000 can be imposed on the first violation of ADA Title III. The penalty increases to $110,000 for subsequent violations.
A web accessible site helps you expand your customer base
Aside from being a requirement for doing online commerce, it is equally important to expand your customer base. There are 285 million visually impaired people in the world and 466 million with disabling hearing loss. There is an opportunity to reach these hundreds of millions of people if only your website were more accessible.
Assuming that only 0.5% of these hearing and vision-challenged people are of legal age and within your market coverage, you can potentially serve 3.7 million more customers who can better access your brand through your accessible website. That’s going to be a significant bump in your customer base.
Web accessibility solutions need not be expensive
Making a website web accessible can be a tedious and expensive process—if done manually. It will be costly and time consuming to hire “experts” to go over legal requirements and guidelines, then come up with the adjustments to implement on a website. There’s the option to use accessibility plugins, which can be available for free or cheap monthly subscriptions. However, these plugins usually don’t lead to full compliance with legal requirements.
“Oftentimes plugin and template developers do try to conform with certain requirements, but these are often not even close to sufficient,” says Ekerling.
He adds: “Moreover, at the end of the day, these plugins and templates are being used by website owners who usually don’t know anything about coding, best practices or accessibility. They simply have a system and click the buttons to achieve what they want as quickly as possible without thinking about what is and what isn’t accessible. Thus website owners end up ruining their own compliance very quickly with each update they make.”
Web accessibility does not have to affect the performance of your website
If you go through the manual process, there’s the risk that modifications in your site’s code can lead to serious problems. Adding new page elements and features to comply with accessibility requirements can introduce errors or bugs that can slow down page loading time. Worse, major errors can make some pages and functions inaccessible.
An AI solution ensures that all necessary changes are made seamlessly and without errors. accessiBe does not impact site performance, particularly page loading time. If anything, better accessibility even improves performance, since such accessibility requirements also involves improvements in search, navigation, and speed.
Web accessibility entails compliance, which can be costly and time-consuming if done manually. However, AI tools can speed up the process and make this process more accessible to businesses of all sizes. “It’s no secret that the topic of web accessibility is on a meteoric rise,” says Ekerling. Thus, there is compelling reason to have the right strategy in ensuring accessibility.