There are many things to think about when you're opening up a new business, and accessibility might not even have crossed your mind. Although this is understandable, it's also a mistake. Putting accessibility at the top of your list will help you set your business up for success in many different ways.
Does The ADA Apply To Small Businesses?
One of the first questions people ask when it comes to small businesses and accessibility is, "Does the Americans Disability Act apply to small businesses?"
It might come as a surprise, but yes, even small businesses are required to comply with the ADA. According to ADA Title III, every business, no matter how big or small, has to be accessible for people with disabilities. This concerns small businesses, right down to large corporations.
ADA Title III doesn’t specifically mention accessibility for websites. However, there has recently been a change of mindset, and disability rights activists, legal scholars, and court rulings have agreed that online websites are covered by ADA Title III. Furthermore, in 2018 the Department of Justice specifically stated that websites are considered places of public accommodations, despite the ADA not mentioning websites specifically.
Therefore, ADA Title III applies both to physical access, like permitting service animals to enter the premises, and digital access, like including subtitles on videos and ensuring websites support accessibility technology. You can read more about the ADA here.
What Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility means making sure that people with all kinds of disabilities can independently browse your products, check your pricing, understand your written content and services, and make a purchase.
People with different types of disabilities require different types of web accessibility accommodations. For example:
- Someone who's blind needs descriptive alt tags on your images so their screen reader can describe them to them
- Someone with a motor disability needs to be able to navigate the whole site using the keyboard instead of a mouse
- Someone who's deaf needs subtitles or sign language interpretation alongside your videos
- Someone with low vision needs a high contrast ratio and clear fonts on all your texts
If you want to learn more about different web accessibility guidelines for people with different disabilities, read our guide to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG is frequently referred to when a website is ruled inaccessible in court. These WCAG guidelines explain what's required for full web accessibility.
3 Reasons Why You Should Consider Web Accessibility When Setting Up Your Website
Naturally, web accessibility might seem like a big task. But it's well worth it to address it right from the start. Like with many other things, it can cost a lot more in both time and money to go back and fix your website than to just make it accessible in the first place.
Here are a number of answers to the question of ‘Why is web accessibility so important?’, to help encourage you to treat it as a fundamental building block of your new small business:
1. Web Accessibility Is Crucial For Compliance
You have enough to deal with when running a small business without needing to worry that you might be sued or fined for ADA non-compliance.
And the risk of an ADA lawsuit is real. Since 2018, the number of websites to receive a lawyer letter about web accessibility rose almost 300%, and since the pandemic began, web accessibility lawsuits jumped even higher. In 2020, the number of web-accessibility lawsuits in federal courts rose by almost 300 compared to 2019, to 2,523, and January 2021 alone saw a record 10,983 federal lawsuit filings.
It's not surprising when you remember that COVID-19 pushed people online like never before. People with disabilities are a lot more ready to take legal action on a non-accessible website when they cannot access the website freely.
Small businesses aren't small enough to fly under the radar, either. All it takes is one person with disabilities to find your site frustrating and unwelcoming for them to send you a legal letter demanding that you fix the site, and possibly requesting damages as well.
2. Web Accessibility Helps Grow Sales And Traffic
Building web accessibility into your business also helps your business succeed from the very beginning, attracting more visitors and driving more sales.
Improve SEO To Increase Potential Traffic
Web accessibility is great for SEO, which helps your website rank higher on search engine results pages and gain more organic traffic. Web accessibility tweaks like descriptive alt-tags and anchor tags for links give you the chance to add more meaningful keywords.
Google also penalizes sites that are too difficult to navigate, plus it pays attention to your bounce rate. Your bounce rate shows how long people spend on your site before they bounce off to go elsewhere. If your site isn't accessible, many people with disabilities will leave it quickly, dragging down your bounce rate.
Improve Reputation To Drive More Sales
Word of mouth is still the most powerful type of marketing, especially now that social media helps spread the word of mouth recommendations to millions.
People with disabilities who land on your site and find that it's inaccessible, confusing, or totally closed to them aren't going to be shy about warning other people to avoid it. On the other hand, if your site is a delight for people with disabilities, they'll recommend it strongly to their friends and relatives and help boost your traffic even further.
Offer A Positive Experience To All Your Customers
A fully accessible site is a pleasure for everyone to use, not just for people with disabilities. When you build your site from the very beginning with web accessibility in mind, you'll end up with a site that's simple to navigate, one that has an intuitive purchase journey that encourages more visitors to convert into customers.
When your site is accessible it means your products are easy to find, your content is clearly understandable, and that your checkout process doesn't throw up obstacles that might lead someone to abandon their cart. It's a win-win situation.
3. Web Accessibility Is The Right Thing To Do
Finally, your conscience should push you to offer an equal opportunity for people with disabilities. In the US alone, 61 million people live with a disability, including two out of every five adults aged over 65, and there are over one billion people with disabilities worldwide.
These people also need to be able to carry out activities online, like ordering groceries and medications, buying shoes and clothes, and comparing prices and features for services such as mobile hairdressing, garden care, or physical therapy. If your site isn't accessible, it's like you're locking them away from the rest of the world.
How To Check If My Website Is Accessible?
If you've already started working on your website, or if it's fully up and running already, you'll want to check whether it's accessible. The easiest way to do that is to use accessiBe's aCe tool, which audits your site against the WCAG accessibility guidelines. At the end of the evaluation, you'll get a report that explains each accessibility issue on your site, so you'll know what needs to be done to fix it.
The Most Straightforward Way To Make Your Website Accessible
accessiBe's AI-based accessibility tool, accessWidget, is a straightforward, business-friendly, and also cost-effective way to get a fully accessible website. The AI engine scans your site to identify accessibility issues, and then it automatically remediates them.
After pasting the accessWidget code into your site's template, within 48 hours, your site will be accessible. The tool rescans your site every 24 hours to check if any new content has been added or software updates, which could hurt your accessibility.
Web Accessibility Should Be Top of the List for New Businesses
Web accessibility helps you increase sales and traffic, avoid fines and lawsuits, and feel at ease with your conscience. It's incredibly important not to leave it till the end when setting up a new business or website. Fortunately, accessiBe's AI-powered web accessibility tool, accessWidget, means that it doesn't have to be exhausting or expensive to make an accessible site, so you can turn your attention to the other tasks on your to-do list.