Digital Accessibility: Why We Are Committing to It

woman with hearing aid using her cell phone

Posted by Gabriella Fundaro on September 17, 2019

Digital accessibility is a critical component of any company’s website. If your site isn’t accessible, there are many groups of people who won’t be able to view and engage with your web content. This includes those with disabilities, older adults, and people whose first language is not the language your content is written in.

That’s why we are committed to ensuring compliance with the latest accessibility standards.

What does digital accessibility mean?

Sometimes, people need to use assistive technology such as screen readers or text-to-speech keyboards in order to engage with websites and digital content. At its most basic level, digital accessibility means that all information on a website or other online property can be easily accessed with this assistive technology.

Here are some simple examples of how digital content may be made accessible:

  • Including captions in your YouTube videos so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can understand what is being said (this also helps people who are viewing with their sound off, or are in noisy locations)
  • Writing alt text for your website’s images so that people who have a visual disability can have the image descriptions read aloud to them by a screen reader
  • Adding text to buttons and links so that people using screen readers have appropriate context

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which serve as the global standard for accessibility. The above examples are all ways to make sure your content is in compliance with these guidelines, but there are many more areas you’ll need to address to fully comply.

Digital accessibility errors are common, and in some cases there are quick fixes to resolving the issues, such as addressing them on a virtual layer. But in order to truly implement accessibility on your site, you’ll also need to address issues at the root. This is done by bringing your site’s source code into compliance.

Why is digital accessibility important?

First and foremost, achieving digital accessibility helps make the Internet a more inclusive place for all users. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 13.2 million people in the U.S. who have a disability that these guidelines are meant to address. At a minimum, noncompliance can be frustrating for those using assistive technology, and at worst, they may not be able to access certain websites at all.

But digital accessibility is not just important to your visitors – it’s also good business. By showing that accessibility is a priority for your company, you’ll foster a more inclusive, forward-thinking brand. And by complying with digital accessibility standards and regulations, you’ll also protect your organization’s financial security and reputation.

In certain industries, such as healthcare, government agencies and higher education, organizations are required by federal legislation to maintain compliance with digital accessibility standards.

Some examples of this legislation include:

  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires all federal agencies to make their digital assets accessible to people with disabilities
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also requires colleges and universities to provide equal access to students with disabilities
  • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act mandates that healthcare providers receiving assistance from the government must make their electronic services accessible to those with disabilities, and Medicaid managed programs specifically must comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards

In the retail and financial industries, digital accessibility lawsuits are becoming more and more common. If an individual tries to access your site’s content and can’t because it isn’t accessible, your business could be sued under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There was a 177% jump in these types of lawsuits from 2017 to 2018.

While these are all important things to keep in mind when it comes to serving people with disabilities, the bottom line is that digital accessibility helps everyone. For example, Facebook reports that up to 85% of its videos are watched without sound, so captions are a huge boost to any user’s experience. And accessibility makes for a much clearer, more coherent site structure, leading to stronger SEO (search engine optimization) for your website.

Why we’re committing now

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to attend the M-Enabling Summit, which is an annual show that promotes accessible technologies and environments for senior citizens and people with disabilities. At the show, we spoke to industry leaders, such as Ruh Global Impact, who are doing amazing and necessary work in this space. And we got a real sense of how digital accessibility impacts real people, every day.

We also gained a much clearer idea of how accessibility measures can completely transform the way a person interacts with content online. Accessibility compliance turns a potentially frustrating encounter for your visitors into a seamless experience where they can easily find what they’re looking for – and what you want them to see.

Using digital accessibility software, our own site has been easily transformed into a more inclusive space. We’ve implemented permanent fixes directly in our site’s source code, and we’ve automated some fixes on a virtual layer to help ensure that our site is always in compliance, even when our dev team is still working on a source code fix in the background.

There are some basic steps you can take to make sure your own site’s content is more accessible, like adding captions or making sure the contrast is high enough. But if you want to get serious about accessibility, you’ll need to consider a full digital accessibility solution. We are partnering with Make-Sense to help make the web a more inclusive place. If you’re interested in making your own site more accessible, contact us today.

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Gabriella Fundaro
Marketing Communications Specialist