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Category: Accessibility

09
Dec

Your Digital Space Needs to be Accessible Too

Skeptical? There are a variety of reasons a business should be interested in improving accessibility.

It’s right.
  • People with disabilities have a right to access the same services as everyone else. And this shouldn’t be any more difficult for them than it is for anyone else.
It’s smart.
  • Nearly 25% of adults in the US have a disability.
  • Why make it harder for these potential clients to convert?
  • Why not make accessibility and inclusivity a part of your brand?
It’s the law.
  • The Department of Justice requires businesses of “public accommodation” to comply with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. This extends to your website as well as your physical space.
  • In 2016 Dominos was sued because their website did not provide people with disabilities equal access to their products and services. The lower courts ruled in favor of accessibility – and just this year, the Supreme Court upheld that decision.

The ADA does not specify exactly how a business should comply, simply that it must. However, there are standard practices which have emerged as the number of settlements and case decisions has increased.

The most often cited accessibility standard in these cases is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This is a standard that was first published in 2008 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It has seen a number of updates since then and has been widely adopted as the preferred accessibility standard by US courts, the EU, and the web development community.

Concerned yet?

I’m guessing you might be reeling as you consider how this could affect your business. And, hopefully you agree that web accessibility is not something that should be ignored.  There’s a Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” So don’t panic – “right now” is a perfect time to start, and “right here” is a perfectly acceptable starting point.

What can I do?

Anyone can view the WCAG guidelines and there are plenty of websites with resources to help you develop a strategy for improving accessibility. There are some automated tools that can help. These can be relatively simple to implement and can improving your site quickly. However, even the best tools only catch around 30% of the accessibility errors on a site, and they are prone to give false positives.

At some point, developers need to get involved. Maybe you have some internal resources, or a partner you trust (we’d love for that to be us!) – but ultimately you cannot comply with the WCAG guidelines without having real people test your site and make the necessary changes. Since every site is different, and disability  can take many different forms, human experience and problem solving is required if you want your website to be truly accessible.

Kestrel can help.

We can audit your site to measure any accessibility gaps and provide a report which will help you understand:

  • the non-conforming elements
  • which guideline the failing elements do not comply with
  • a recommended action to achieve compliance

Once we have a strategy in place we can also help with remediation or work with your internal team as they begin correcting the failing elements.

How much will this cost me?

Let’s just get this part out of the way – it’s hard to say. Every site is different in terms of complexity and in terms of the level of non-compliance. With that said, we generally offer audits starting around $2,000.

I love the words “tax-credit”…

But there’s good news! The IRS offers an incentive to qualifying small businesses (30 employees or less, or an annual revenue of $1 million or less) in the form of a 50% tax credit for ADA compliance improvement costs between $250 and $10,000. Many businesses have interpreted web accessibility improvements as a qualifying expense. You can tell your CPA about IRS Form 8826 (or check it out yourself) to see if you believe you qualify. Also, forgive the obligatory disclaimer, but: We’re not lawyers or CPA’s, so none of this should be taken as legal advice.

We are excited to help your business increase its reach, mitigate risk, and make sure the web is accessible to everyone. Contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss solutions.