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The laws and best practices surrounding website accessibility can seem intolerably complex at first glance. Unfortunately, there are also some myths and half-truths floating around that cloud the water and give companies a false sense of security regarding the accessibility of their digital content. It is important to make sure that your website is accessible to people with disabilities. So the goal of this short blog post is to dispel some of the more common myths and get you started on how to ensure compliance!
What is website accessibility and why should you care?
Website accessibility is the practice of making your website accessible to as large a group of people as possible, regardless of their skills. In general, online accessibility refers to features designed for people with disabilities – people with visual impairments, hearing impairments, motor control difficulties, neurological disorders, learning disabilities, or age-related performance disabilities.
If your website wasn’t built to work properly with assistive technology (AT) – like a screen reader – it will essentially prevent people with disabilities from interacting with your content. In physical terms, this would be equivalent to building a restaurant without wheelchair access. It’s against the law and it’s unusual.
The same standards should apply to website accessibility. As we deepen our reliance on online interactions – paying bills, virtual education, shopping, even socializing – all people of all abilities deserve the right to accessible interaction.
There is also a compliance driver. Increasingly, US federal courts are ruling that website accessibility is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that website accessibility is not just a moral obligation, it is also a legal one.
Common myths about website accessibility
Myth 1: Only a small percentage of the world’s population has a disability.
This is the biggest myth out there, and it most likely stems from the invisibility of many disabilities. Disability may not be an obvious physical sign to the untrained eye, and of course, many disabilities make it difficult for people to participate in the same activities as people without disabilities. The net result? Many people are simply not aware that many of their fellow citizens live with a disability.
The numbers might surprise you: vv In the US, the proportion is even higher: the CDC estimates that 26% of adults in the US live with a disability.
Myth 2: Making a website accessible is costly and time consuming
The truth is, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of time or money to make a website compliant and instantly more accessible.
Our research suggests that around two-thirds of accessibility problems can be detected and resolved with automated technology, which massively speeds up resolution and lowers costs. When you sign up with a digital accessibility service provider, your website is protected from day one of installation as Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology instantly finds and fixes hundreds of the most common bugs.
Myth 3: Using automated tools on my website is all you have to do to make them accessible
Over 65% of companies surveyed by AudioEye believe that simply adding a toolbar to a website makes it accessible. More than half believe that AI or automation alone equates to a website that is fully functional for all users.
The fact is: Artificial intelligence is sophisticated and is getting better and better. But automation alone will never detect and fix every accessibility error. A computer simply cannot interpret intent or contextual meaning. The limited scope of even the most advanced automation leaves many compliance issues unsolved and puts your business at risk.
That’s not to say that automation and toolbars are useless. These are important elements in an accessibility toolkit that should include regular monitoring, manual testing led by human experts, reporting, analysis, and a method for users to report obstacles they encounter. A hybrid approach that combines technology and people is a great way to achieve and maintain an accessible online experience.
Myth 4: Digital accessibility is only needed for the blind or visually impaired
Most believe that visual impairment is the most noticeable disability affected by an inaccessible website.
The fact is that mobility and cognitive problems affect a higher percentage of the population than visual impairments. This means that website accessibility is essential for those who cannot move their hands or arms and need a switching device, as well as those who have dyslexia and need the ability to switch to a more readable font to display your online To be able to read information easily.
Accessibility also affects aging users, including those who have deteriorating eyesight and need higher contrast or larger font, have difficulty hearing, or struggle with motor control.
Bottom line: An accessible digital experience benefits users of all abilities. And the design doesn’t have to suffer.
Myth 5: Digital accessibility only applies to websites in the United States
While it’s true that the U.S. has one of the strongest legal frameworks for digital accessibility – including federal and state laws – most developed countries around the world have laws in place to protect the rights of users with a disability. Legislation in the European Union, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and Israel is particularly mature and far-reaching.
Depending on what your business does, how it is funded, where it’s headquartered, where it operates, and whether it offers a transactional website, you may need to comply with one or more of these laws.
Myth 6: Digital accessibility only applies if you also have a brick and mortar store
According to Title III of the ADA, discrimination is prohibited in any “place of public accommodation”. In numerous cases, case law has firmly established that websites are viewed as places of public accommodation as well as physical stores. And while there certainly are some nuances in interpreting the law, especially when it comes to the status of non-transactional websites, any business with an internet presence must comply with digital accessibility laws – or risk costly legal action and reputational damage.
Myth 7: Digital accessibility doesn’t apply if you have 15 or fewer employees
The reference to “place of public accommodation” in Title III of the ADA does not provide for any special exceptions for small businesses. You cannot claim that your business is too small to comply, nor do you claim ignorance of the law: the ADA is a “mandatory law” so there are no excuses for non-compliance. Also, see Myth 2, compliance doesn’t have to be overly costly or time consuming.
Fact: Internet accessibility is a smart business
From an ethical point of view, individuals of all abilities deserve the right to access the internet. And as we’ve seen, there are strong legal incentives in place to make sure your website is as accessible as possible.
But for businesses, perhaps the most compelling arguments are those about the bottom line. If you don’t take accessibility seriously, it essentially prevents people with disabilities from fully engaging with your content – and that is potentially a quarter of the US population! Don’t let myths and misunderstandings fool you: invest in your website’s accessibility.
At AudioEye, we believe in equal access and we want to help you make it happen. Start your free trial of AudioEye today.