John Guido | May 11, 2020
It is estimated that one billion people – or around 15% of the entire global population – experience some form of disability. Disabilities can be characterized as permanent, for example blindness or deafness, or temporary, which can impact their ability to carry out their responsibilities for limited periods of time. Disabilities can also be either physical or mental, and many people have a combination of both.
As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law, we spoke with current P2P Global member and Chief Growth Officer at eSSENTIAL Accessibility, Eric Feinberg, who provided some great insight into why adding web accessibility to your IT projects is so important and how it would benefit your clients to have a partner able to approach projects using that perspective.
eSSENTIAL Accessibility is a digital accessibility compliance platform that allows companies to ensure their websites are accessible. Their work provides an inclusive experience by bettering the digital experience for people with disabilities. For clients, this means providing a better customer experience, making sure their projects meet accessibility standards, and following digital best practices. They are experts in web accessibility and we are excited to dive deeper into the value partnering with accessibility firms can provide to your clients.
Why Is It Important?
As mentioned previously, there are a huge number of people globally who have a disability. If a site is inaccessible, many of these people will be prevented or deterred from attempting to use it – that is an enormous potential revenue loss for businesses. Adding web accessibility will open up your clients’ products or services to a much larger audience, increasing not only awareness but profits. A 2018 study by The American Institutes for Research indicated that disposable income for Americans with disabilities is roughly $490 billion – a formidable share. If your clients don’t consider adding web accessibility, then they are potentially losing out on huge segments of the market.
Enhances Other Best Practices
As Eric noted, the perfect metaphor for digital ADA compliance is a wheelchair and ramp. “In the same way wheelchair ramps help people access physical spaces, back-end code is the digital ‘ramp,’ granting access to a web experience that individuals with sight, hearing, or mobility disabilities otherwise may not have been able to operate,” Eric explained. For example, keyboard navigation can be written into the back-end code to allow those with mobility issues who would have difficulty using a mouse or touchpad to effectively navigate a website. Furthermore, in the same way a wheelchair provides the means to maneuver the physical ramp, assistive technology – for example, screen readers like NVDA or voice control like Siri – helps people use an ADA compliant website.
On the front-end, using alternative text alongside pictures can help those with vision impairments. Similarly, proper use of headers and tags can assist those with screen readers as well as provide a clear structure for responsive digital design. Such use of correct text in the front-end will also improve SEO results. By structuring your website in a way that effectively uses relevant keywords, search engines such as Google will be more likely to rank your business in the top search results for those keywords. This means that adding web accessibility makes it far more likely that your clients’ website will be reached by consumers.
Ensures Legal Compliance
Aside from the ethics of making sure that individuals with disabilities can access your site, the law also requires it. Legal action can, and has been, taken against companies that do not provide accessibility to disabled users. In 2019 alone, there were over 2,250 federal lawsuits filed. Often, the organizations accused of web inaccessibility are hit with demand letters. In these instances, law firms will send a letter demanding a certain amount of money to settle the case.
Legal ramifications aren’t the only expensive consequence of web inaccessibility; the negative PR that can accompany these cases often result in a nightmare for the organizations involved. This is incredibly costly, both financially and in terms of the public image of the company.
Ways to Make Clients’ Websites More Accessible
The very first step that an accessibility firm would take is an audit. While automated tools can be used for about one-third of this process, the most vital step is having people with disabilities test the client’s site, as sometimes software can give a false positive. Clients should expect a combination of automated and manual inspections. Upon completing a thorough evaluation, the firm will then begin making the changes based on what the clients deem low, middle, and high priority.
Some examples of the changes they might make include:
- A focus on contrast can help individuals with vision impairments such as color blindness. For example, a pale yellow tab on a white background indicating to a user which part of the website they are on is likely going to have very little contrast, and be incredibly difficult if not impossible to see. There are multiple tools that developers can use to test the contrast of their clients’ website’s colors that are simple and free.
- Including transcripts is another great way of adding web accessibility to a client’s site. This is useful not only to hearing impaired consumers but also people who can’t or don’t want to watch a video. Perhaps the website is displaying a ‘how-to’ video; a transcript will help not only people who cannot view the file but also those not wanting to disturb their environment – perhaps in an office or on public transport.
- Ensuring that your client’s product or service is simple and understandable can also play a huge part in adding web accessibility. Using acronyms or jargon will be confusing to most people, and wherever possible these terms should be explained to users. Individuals with learning disabilities, for example, may struggle with overcomplicated terms or complex language. This can also affect individuals with visual impairments who are utilizing screen readers or people disabilities such as dyslexia.
How To Add Web Accessibility to Your Projects
As we can see, there are numerous reasons to look at IT projects through the accessibility lens, the only question now is how. If your firm’s specialty is anything other than web accessibility, then the best way to include it in your projects is to partner with a web accessibility firm, like eSSENTIAL Accessibility.
As accessibility is a hot topic right now, it would behoove IT firms to connect with an accessibility partner ASAP. So many vendors and customers are, unfortunately, starting to feel the repercussions of not being ADA compliant, meaning many of your clients will likely be asking about it, and if they aren’t now, they will be soon.
Sam Fatigato, CEO of Coda Global, noted the advantage of partnering to solve for potential gaps in accessibility skills.
“As Coda delivers web and mobile applications for native Cloud deployment, we focus our expertise on making those systems intuitive, user-friendly, and performant. Because we recognize the need for creating environments that are more accessible, we look to partner with firms like eSSENTIAL that are expert in understanding and applying accessibility techniques. This would otherwise be a ‘blind-spot’ for Coda. P2P Global has helped us identify and partner with specialty firms that round out our solutions. We are now asking, ‘Why not consider building a fully accessibility compliant solution?’ In the end, it is a simple way to offer more value, and it is the right thing to do.”
Clearly, there are massive benefits for solution providers who prioritize adding web accessibility to their projects and their clients. While there are some simple actions that organizations can take to get a head start on increasing the accessibility of websites for users, partnering with a top tier solution provider to implement this accessibility for your projects can ensure clients are compliant in all aspects of accessibility.
As Eric from eSSENTIAL Accessibility explains, firms such as his can not only provide risk mitigation from the aforementioned legal and publicity issues, but also carry out ongoing monitoring services to ensure your projects always remain compliant. They can also offer training to relevant staff, such as developers and content authors, in how to utilize digital accessibility in their work. These benefits really allow the process of adding web accessibility to be streamlined for both clients and IT partners.
Building an ecosystem of partners is the best way to include a diverse array of perspectives, like those of accessibility or security, and provide a comprehensive solution for your clients. Learn more about how P2P Global helps you build your partner ecosystem here.