Website Accessibility: It's not just a good idea, it's the law

May 14, 2015

We receive requests about information concerning accessibility regularly. Unfortunately, it is usually phrased in the form of "do I need to do it, and if so how much does it cost?" As with so many things in life, website accessibility is a complicated topic, and the answer is "it depends."

What is accessibility?

“Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.”

Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Why should I do it?

It is the right thing to do

“The web is not a barrier to people with disabilities, it is the solution. The web has the potential to revolutionize the day-to-day lives of millions of people with disabilities by increasing their ability to independently access information…and other aspects of life that most people take for granted.”

Center for Persons with Disabilities

Attracts new/retains existing customers

With so many websites inaccessible to users relying on assistive technology, providing an accessible website can differentiate your business or organization from your competition, allowing you to attract new customers, and retain existing disabled customers.

Generally leads to improved usability for all

We believe that accessibility, usability, and search engine optimization are closely related. If done well, an accessible site should also work better for able users, as well as perform better for search. See our previous posts on the Intersection of Usability, Accessibility, and SEO:

It’s the law (does it apply to you?)

If you are not motivated by the carrot, beware of the stick. Some organizations are clearly obligated to provide accessible websites, including federal agencies, as well as certain industries, such as airlines.

For others, the laws are not as clear, though the courts are setting precedent on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the Justice Department is is going after businesses large and small on the grounds that their websites violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities act. There is an expectation the DOJ will document expectations for websites in regard to accessibility later in 2015.

Is it easy?

Unfortunately, accessibility is a complex topic, and depending on the website, difficult to implement, especially on a completed website. The best time to approach accessibility is when planning a new website.

How do I keep my site accessible?

Unless you plan to not change a word on your website after its initial deployment, accessibility is a process, rather than an end result. Anyone who can edit content on the website needs to understand the principles of website accessibility to keep the website compliant. In addition, it is best to assign a staff member to provide training, and review content and functionality changes.

Website Accessibility: It's not just a good idea, it's the law from DesignHammer

Web Accessibility Resources

Web Accessibility Guides

Web Accessibility Blogs

Legal Rulings on Web Accessibility

Web Accessibility Testing Tools Lists

Web Accessibility Laws