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Getting on Board with Digital Accessibility

This column explores the wide range of issues with digital accessibility, from the business case for implementation to the technical discussions showing how to address common issues.

What Does Digital Accessibility Mean?

Your customers usually experience your brand in the digital world first. They visit your website, they read your content and they use your application. The digital experience that you provide shouldn’t exclude any potential customers or clients. Yet, like the physical buildings that we encounter every day, digital spaces may have barriers — barriers that hinder or even turn away people with disabilities. Those same barriers may make it difficult for everyone to use your digital products, not only those with disabilities.

Consider a new grocery store. You wouldn’t expect to see a curb in front of the main entrance, would you? Those curb cuts don’t only benefit wheelchair users. They also make life easier on everyone else. There are shoppers pushing carts, parents wheeling strollers and delivery people rolling dollies. There are people walking with their heads down, glued to their smartphones, who would trip on a curb if one were present.

Businesses should consider their customers’ digital experience in the same way. Removing barriers that prevent comprehension or use of information should be paramount. Luckily, removing those barriers in the digital world doesn’t usually mean new construction. It means having a partner who understands those barriers and is capable of removing them.

Legal Issues and Total Market Capture

When the Americans With Disabilities Act passed in 1990, the internet was in its infancy. Today, the internet is no longer a novelty. It is a necessity. The U.S. Department of Justice agrees, and says that Title III covers websites. Accessibility lawsuits used to primarily focus on physical barriers such as ramps or Braille. Now, those lawsuits also focus on digital media, and point out the importance of customer experience on the internet.

Imagine a customer with a physical impairment, who may be very inconvenienced by visiting your business location. A virtual visit to your business would be extremely convenient, unless the digital experience is not accessible. How many prospects would you be comfortable turning away at your storefront? Twenty percent? Because that’s roughly how many people in the United States have some sort of disability.

If you discover and address your digital shortfalls in universal access, you are able to capture the total market. It’s not altruistic, it’s best for business.

Watch for the next article in this series, where we will take a closer look at the most common digital accessibility problems and how to address them.

Further Reading

Department of Justice Affirms ADA’s Coverage of Websites

Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports