Throughout this pandemic, we’ve all accomplished a affecting shift in our relationships with our devices. For a world that’s already become absorbed to the internet, this addiction aback transitioned into an acute and absolute dependence. 

We became codicillary on the internet for work and school, switching from in-person to basic meetings, email, and chat apps. We now need the internet more than ever to keep us abreast and entertained, ward off loneliness, and about keep us sane by accouterment a window into what’s going on beyond our four walls.

In some cases, we even became codicillary on the internet for basic needs, like groceries, medication deliveries, and capital advice about COVID — from how to assure yourself to befitting up with new social break regulations. 

But brainstorm how altered your life would have been these past few months if you were only able to access a small allotment of the web? 

A vast majority of websites still remain closed off to people with disabilities. To admeasurement the size of the problem, accessiBe, an AI-based web accessibility solution, tested 10,000,000 websites for accessibility compliance. According to the study:

  • 98% of menus failed
  • 83% of buttons
  • 71% of forms 
  • 52% of images
  • 89% of pop-ups. 

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What does this mean in practice? 

Imagine going to a website and not being able to cross to altered pages — nope you only get to see one page here. Finding random blank buttons that lead to… who knows where. You find a form with blank spaces but no info about what it’s for and what advice needs to be filled in. (These are decidedly fun when they’re long forms you have to fill out to pay your taxes, apply for university or get a medical consultation.)

When arcade online, the spaces where the images of the articles are declared to accommodate very attainable descriptions like ‘image1’ or the classically chaste ‘graphic.’ Want a summer sale abatement on an ‘image 3’? Too bad you can’t read pop-ups. 

Making websites attainable isn’t only the right thing to do — it can also assure adjoin lawsuits

In the last three years, the accessibility botheration has gained wider acceptance through a series of accretion and high contour lawsuits. 

In fact, according to data collected by law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, the US saw a 177% access in web accessibility lawsuits amid 2017 and 2018. Aback even big names like Domino’s Pizza, Nike, PornHub, and even the mighty Beyoncé were all sued for having aloof websites. 

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Three affidavit why companies still don’t have attainable websites

While the number of cases seems to have collapsed off in 2019, website accessibility lawsuits are absolutely here to stay.  

So why are there still so many aloof websites out there? 

1. Awareness and abstruse expertise

It’s not a simple botheration to fix, Minh Vu, a accomplice at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, told TNW: “Most companies don’t advance their own websites and they don’t have the centralized ability to know if their website developers are absolutely creating an attainable website for them, even if they make it a claim in the development contract.”

In our experience, most web developers are very afraid to commit in autograph to architecture an attainable website for businesses, and abate businesses have very little advantage in these negotiations. Also, websites are adapted all the time so if the people making the updates don’t know how to ensure they are accessible, that can also create new barriers.

While web accessibility has been an issue for many years, it’s only afresh that a wider admirers is acceptable aware of the situation, decidedly amidst SMBs. Yan Kotliarsky, VP of Marketing at accessiBe, added:

It’s new territory. People started to be aware of the accent and legislations of web accessibility only after the 2018 DOJ ruling advertence that websites are places of public adaptation (although lawsuits started to appear in 2016). Business and agency owners are aware of web accessibility, but a lot of the time they’re not aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act has annihilation to do with that.

For Alejandro Moledo, Policy Coordinator at the European Disability Forum:

There are altered reasons: lack of ability on the bread-and-butter and abstruse allowances of web accessibility and lack of absorption in acceptable across-the-board to bodies with disabilities because they think it’s too complicated.

2. Lack of a clear legal framework

“There is really only one set of accessibility guidelines being used everywhere right now, and that is the Website Agreeable Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 or 2.1, level AA. Companies absent to work appear accessibility should adopt these guidelines as their standard,” Minh explained. 

(Check out more info about these guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C.)

While these guidelines exist and are widely recognized, absolutely how to acquaint them into civic legal frameworks continues to be a gray area for some. In the US, one of the major confusions and headaches for all parties complex has been the about lack of federal advice on this issue. Minh explained:

The U.S. should be devoting assets to arising alive regulations about the websites of public apartment so there are clear rules for businesses to follow. The Justice Department said in 2010 that it would issue regulations, and then the Obama administering did annihilation and the Trump administering concluded the rulemaking altogether.

So the accustomed state of the law is a check of administrative decisions and no accurately bounden accustomed defining what is an attainable website. This makes it very difficult for businesses to accommodate with website development companies for an attainable website and it is adverse the development of ability within the web development association on how to make attainable websites because it’s not advised a priority.

However, one absorbing step advanced which could lead the way appear more widely accustomed and accustomed standards are the accoutrement categorical under the much advancing California Consumer Aloofness Act (CCPA). This highly debated Act will crave companies to inform users of their intent to monetize their data and must also accommodate a way to opt-out.

The absorbing thing is that it also specifies the need for companies to make their aloofness acknowledgment attainable for consumers with disabilities and “shall follow about accustomed industry standards, such as the Web Agreeable Accessibility Guidelines, adaptation 2.1.” However, it doesn’t specify which of the three levels of acquiescence companies need to meet (A, AA, AAA) and also mentions that other about accustomed industry standards could be advised as well. 

This contrasts decidedly with how the EU has approached web accessibility. This aberration could conceivably be a reason why we’re seeing so many more lawsuits coming out of the US. 

As Alejandro explained, “In the EU, a legal framework acute companies to make their websites attainable was afresh adopted. The right legislation, accurate by abstruse standards, is absolutely a driver for accessibility.”

Here’s a brief breakdown of the EU’s accessibility directives with links to added information:

  • 2016 Web Accessibility Directive – which requires all public sector bodies websites and mobile apps to be attainable to bodies with disabilities.
    • One of the accoutrement is to add an accessibility annual on the website/app advertence its compliance, a acknowledgment apparatus for users, and a link to the administration apparatus (basically to lodge complaints).
    • The way to prove acquiescence with the EU Directive is to follow the harmonized European Accustomed EN 301 549, which capacity 9 (web), 10 (non-web docs), and 11 (software) copy-paste W3C WCAG 2.1 – requirements are level A and AA success criteria. Triple-A is only informative.
  • 2019 European Accessibility Act (also a Directive): this Directive covers the clandestine sector and all the webs and mobile apps of all the casework included in the scope of the legislation AND all webs and apps condoning as e-commerce (so, basically every website and app that tries to sell you something).
    • Market Surveillance Authorities will adviser acquiescence and issue fines if necessary.
    • NGOs can also take a aggregation to court based on non-compliance.
    • We don’t yet have harmonized standards, but we are assertive that for the web it will be the same EN 301 549.

3. Cost

On top of this, for companies that absolutely wanted to make their websites more accessible, the early options were often out of reach for many SMBs. 

“Once people became aware, they saw that the only solutions they had were manual, which means they’re very big-ticket (starting at $5K) and take a lot of time (it can take a month to make one website accessible). This is one of the affidavit why accessiBe was created: to accommodate business owners with an affordable and effortless web accessibility solution,” Yan said. 

While giants like Nike and Beyoncé can afford manual accessibility, or even the massive accusation that could come with declining to make their website more accessible, SMBs found themselves amid a rock and a hard place. Pay the crippling (and in some cases unaffordable) fee to make their website attainable or run the risk of potentially paying massive legal fees.  

If even Queen B has been sued, so could your SMB. Here’s what to do.

How to make sure your website is accessible

1. Make accessibility a antecedence on your web development roadmap

If possible, try and embed accessibility standards within your website from the start. 

“When a aggregation procures a new website, it should make sure that it is acutely adumbrated in the arrangement that the website shall comply with WCAG 2.1 level A and AA. Because fixing an aloof website is way more big-ticket than doing it right from the outset,” Alejandro told TNW.

But as Minh acicular out, beware of web development casework simply paying lip annual to accessibility in contracts. 

While it’s capital to hire website professionals with accepted ability in accessibility standards, it’s also important to advance this ability centralized to ensure these standards are absolutely met and are maintained and bigger over time. 

“Having accessibility as part of the curricula for ICT professionals is vital. Web developers, webmasters, and editors can get certified as accessibility professionals – this means companies need to invest in accessibility training for their team,” Alejandro said.

But what if you already have an absolute website? How do you know if it meets these standards?

Here is a list provided by W3C with a few manual checks you can do right now. However, to really ensure your website meets the standards, you still need to have it arrested by a professional. 

2. Don’t trust free solutions

As companies, abnormally SMBs, have accolade to find cheaper and faster solutions to fix their accessibility problems, we’ve seen a rise in free extensions and manual tools that companies can simply download and install the same day. 

Unfortunately, this option acts more like a band-aid than an actual long term solution:

“Compliance regulations are usually disregarded when companies use free accessibility solutions. They think their website is adjustable because the band-aid does accommodate several accessibility adjustments, but in reality, there are two major adjustments that free solutions don’t provide: full acclimation for screen readers, and full aeronautics with keyboard only,” Yan told TNW. “These two factors annual for around 80% of the web accessibility guidelines. In most cases, lawsuits are based on them because a lot of the lawsuits are from people with visual impairments.”

Luckily there are website accessibility companies, like accessiBe, out there that are leveraging AI technology to create solutions that are both absolute and affordable.

3. Adviser acquiescence regularly

The botheration is, even if you’ve paid bags to change your website, what happens when you tweak, change, or add new pages? Does it aback leave you apparent yet again? 

According to Yan:

When website owners choose a manual solution, they need to make sure their website is attainable and adjustable each time new agreeable is uploaded. We saw cases where tens of bags of dollars were invested in a manual accessibility activity that several months later was extraneous because of new aloof content. 

A website should be consistently monitored. Once new agreeable is added to the website (as long as it’s not a 3rd party tool or an iframe), the agreeable must be anon accessible. A site owner can’t place a bulletin ‘the site is going through accessibility maintenance’ each time they upload new content. This is why there is a big need for a fully automatic accessibility band-aid that can scan and remediate agreeable 24/7.

4. Go beyond the standards

While most regulations only crave companies to meet WCAG 2.1 AA standards, simply acknowledging with these measures to avoid legal risks leaves out the abeyant to access traffic, revenue, and chump satisfaction.

“It’s important to show companies that we (people with disabilities) represent more than 20% of the total citizenry who could become abeyant consumers. Accessibility does not only account bodies with disabilities but all users, older people, mobile access, better SEO (btw, Google is blind!), etc.” Alejandro told TNW.

A 2019 UK study by Click-Away Pound found that 69% of users who have adversity accessing a website will simply ‘click away,’ instead allotment to spend their money on articles or casework from websites that are easier to access. This represents a loss of £17.1 billion in abeyant revenue. And only 8% of these shoppers contacted the site owner to let them know about this barrier.

A number of companies including banking casework aggregation Legal & General Group, CNET, and, the accepted podcast This American Life have all appear that convalescent accessibility absolutely added their website traffic. 

A study conducted by Forrester and commissioned by Microsoft found that companies that advance their accessibility also see higher rates of chump and agent satisfaction. 

The best way to account from these abeyant gains is to animate more admittance and assortment in your user testing and hiring processes. Alejandro agreed and added: “Reach out to users and absorb them in the design action too.”

What the world needs now: a renewed push appear greater accessibility

A recent study by The Markup and web accessibility non-profit WebAIM found that the Coronavirus advice websites set up by 41 out of 50 US states independent low adverse text, making it difficult or absurd for low vision visitors (including many seniors) to read. Another 31 states had websites that were difficult to cross abrogation users with screen readers to have to find their way through the advice by trial and error. 

With the COVID pandemic, we’ve seen agenda casework become even more important to our livelihoods than ever. When asked what impact he anticipation the catching would have on the accessibility debate, Yan said:

We hope the impact will be positive, but we can’t tell for now since we’re still in the middle of everything. We do know that people begin to accept how important the online world is for people who can’t leave their homes. Also, more people are activity balked with bad online experiences, which again, makes them apprehend how people with disabilities feel every day.

We need to bethink that people with disabilities can do annihilation anyone else can. In the online world, their limitation doesn’t limit them, but aloof sites do.

As Alejandro points out: “Let’s bethink that accessibility is a prerequisite human right: acute for bodies with disabilities, and benign to all society.”

This commodity is brought to you by ACE.

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