The fundamental purpose of the world wide web is to provide all users with access to a powerful global information system that is easy to use. If this is the case, why are there so many people who are unable to easily use the web to its fullest capacity?
According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians, or 6.2 million Canadians aged 15 and older have at least one disability that limits them in their daily activities including their use of the web. Is your business able to find value in creating a plan for web accessibility?
You cannot afford to ignore accessibility
By building a website for your business or organization that is not completely accessible to at least 6.2 million Canadians, you are losing out on valuable business that represents purchasing power of approximately $55 billion annually. In many organizations, increasing revenue and improving customer engagement takes precedence, however, web accessibility can no longer be ignored or relegated to the lower portion of your priority list.
Looking at the sheer size of the Canadian population that is living with at least one disability that limits them in their daily life, and factoring in the projected growth of that figure – estimated to be 40 percent of Ontario’s consumers by 2035 – the numbers are staggering. The case can be easily made that accessibility, specifically web accessibility, should be a top priority for decision-makers as this population has the ability to increase revenue for your business and improve customer engagement. A commitment to accessibility provides your business with the opportunity to enhance its brand by making its services more usable and readily accessible to people with varying abilities and disabilities.
Building a case for accessibility at your organization
Some may argue that implementing an accessible web design does not have a substantial return on investment. However, that is not at all the case.
Organizations that are committed to web accessibility have great success and stand head and shoulders above the crowd, proving themselves as progressive leaders of innovation and positioning their company as one that cares about people. Inclusive businesses can extend their market reach and positively engage with all customers and prospects, regardless of their physical, mental or other abilities.
By not conforming to accessibility guidelines, your organization will not be able to compete with others that are actively implementing diverse strategies. Some 71 per cent of customers with disabilities will leave a website if it is too difficult for them to navigate and the majority of these consumers are willing to pay more money for the same product from an organization that offers them a pleasing and easily accessible web experience.
An accessible website is beneficial to everyone – not just people with disabilities. There are situations where individuals don’t necessarily identify as a person with a disability, such as those with age-related limitations to vision or hearing, yet would definitely benefit from accessibility features such as colour contrast, closed captioning, screen readers and zoom magnification.
Innovation and accessible design
Web accessibility ensures all web content is accessible and that people of all abilities and disabilities are able to perceive, navigate and understand this content while being free of any barriers. Businesses are not accommodating individuals with disabilities by providing alternatives. They are instead building barriers by not providing accessible experiences for customers who rely on assistive technology like screen readers, voice detection software, zoom magnification, switch controls and other assistive devices.
When you create a universal design, to include accessibility, you are improving your website’s framework, resulting in accessibility being built into all components of your site. This framework takes into account for the preferences and needs of users of all abilities. So why spend more time and money creating bandage solutions for certain barriers when you can invest in a digital project that has innovation and inclusion built into its foundation.
Internal benefits of accessibility
Universal design makes accessibility foolproof and protects the integrity of your site when you have multiple employees making changes to your site content. Rather than creating alternatives to enhance your site’s accessibility, and constantly working at maintaining accessibility standards, do it right and invest in an accessible framework. Allow your team to focus on your site’s content and overall business goals while catering to all of the needs and abilities of your clients and prospects.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
With the looming 2021 deadline for compliance with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) it is prudent to begin to consider what actions need to be taken to ensure your organization complies the new regulations. AODA website guidelines have been in effect since the beginning of January 2012 and by January 1, 2021, all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012, on new websites or significantly refreshed websites, must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
These new regulations are applicable to private and non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees, as well as organizations in the public sector. Sites that are compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines will become accessible by providing users with text alternatives for non-text content, formats that include large print, high contrast visuals and braille to eliminate visual barriers.
A good place to begin the process of becoming compliant is to assess the current state of the website, including all existing pages and documents. Evaluate current methods of posting content, and determine which accessibility practices you are already engaging in. Determine areas in need of enhancement and work towards discontinuing practices that detract from your site’s accessibility. Update practices, procedures and organizational policies, to redefine your organization’s standards. Create a plan to ensure that best practices are followed for all ongoing and upcoming digital projects. Create and implement an accessibility roadmap, including a budget and provide employee training and workshops.
OPIN & Siteimprove can help your organization
Resolve your accessibility issues with innovation, instead of litigation, get ahead of the 2021 deadline and begin creating a digital accessibility roadmap for your business. Go beyond compliance by setting organizational accessibility standards to foster an inclusive culture. Learn how you can prepare for the upcoming 2021 AODA deadline but registering for our webinar.
We have partnered with Siteimprove to present “Preparing for Ontario’s Upcoming Web Accessibility Requirements (AODA)” on Wednesday, October 30 at 12 p.m. Register today and start building your roadmap to accessibility!
Julia Adler is a marketing co-ordinator at Ottawa-based OPIN Software.