One in four American adults -- that's 61 million people -- suffers from some form of disability. People with disabilities generally have a hard time using the web. The reason for this stems from the failure of website owners and companies with an online presence to take the necessary steps to make their websites accessible to them.
Domino's was sued by a blind person who wasn't able to order food on both its website and its mobile app. The pizza giant lost the case, which went all the way up to the Supreme Court, because it violated that person's rights under the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Domino's wasn't the only company to get sued for not having its online assets accessible; in 2019, a total of 2,256 website accessibility lawsuits were filed in federal courts. This number is much lower than it should be. According to Israeli startup accessiBe's 2020 Web Accessibility Report, which scanned 10 million webpages of SMBs, 98 percent failed compliance requirements and therefore are exposed to lawsuits.
The case for web accessibility.
Providing accessibility for people with disabilities across online assets is not a matter of choice, but a legal requirement. Since a quarter of Americans need assistance browsing the web, it is arguably a moral obligation as well. Also, disregarding 25 percent of potential traffic is a bad business decision.
So why are the vast majority of websites not accessible? Why do so many businesses risk legal action taken against them and fail to provide equal access to their websites?
A few reasons come to mind. First, enabling accessibility seems to be complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Second, many small and medium-size businesses think that lawsuits are directed only at mega brands. Third, website owners choose one-click accessibility solutions that promise compliance but actually don't deliver, leaving them to believe their sites are accessible when in actuality they aren't. And last, many website owners lack awareness. This is somewhat infuriating--no brick-and-mortar business with stairs is unaware of the need for a wheelchair ramp, so online businesses should get their obligations as service providers straight.
Why current solutions fail to provide true web accessibility.
The web accessibility market has been dominated by two opposing solutions. The first solution involves service companies offering manual audit and remediation for websites, which can be prolonged and expensive. The second solution consists of instant and affordable accessibility widgets that are installed on websites with the click of a button. Unfortunately, neither of these solutions holds water.
The audit and remediation manual service is a thorough process carried out by professionals, but as the websites of today are dynamic and updated constantly, they fall out of compliance in a matter of months, if not weeks.
The accessibility widgets, on the other hand, provide a very limited solution. Here's why: WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), the international standard for web accessibility created by W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium), lays out the dos and don'ts for how websites should be accessible. Seventy percent of the guidelines pertain to Screen Reader and keyboard navigation compatibility; Screen Reader is software used by blind and visually impaired persons, and keyboard navigation is how people with motor disabilities preventing them from using a mouse browse the web. Accommodation of these guidelines is done on the code level of the website. The other 30 percent of the guidelines deal with user interface and appearance, mostly addressing users with cognitive disabilities. Accessibility widgets solve most of the user interface and appearance guidelines, but none of the Screen Reader and keyboard navigation compatibility issues.
A.I. plus automation ensures continuous web accessibility.
AccessiBe, a Tel Aviv-based startup, realized the real and desperate need for a web accessibility solution that is both reasonably priced and achieves complete compliance. The answer it found is in A.I. -- a proprietary engine that scans websites for accessibility issues and fixes them, basically mirroring the manual process of audit and remediation. Only accessiBe completes the entire process in 48 hours, compared with the months a manual service would take, and offers its solution for an affordable price.
Its A.I. engine continues to scan websites every 24 hours and, when new accessibility issues emerge as companies update their websites with new content, fixes them on the fly. This continuous auditing ensures that websites remain accessible, which is a major win point for online businesses. AccessiBe then allows websites to put accessibility on autopilot -- giving companies one less thing to worry about.
Businesses with an online presence have an obligation to provide equal access to all individuals. Making their website accessible to people with disabilities should be a top priority for companies.
How accessible is your website?