CEOs Must Be Mindful of Web Accessibility
Here's what you can do to ensure your digital content is fully accessible to users of all ability levels.
Web accessibility may not seem like an immediate priority for many CEOs, especially with other urgent matters like cybersecurity to worry about. But in your position of authority, you must take the lead in ensuring that your digital content is fully accessible to users of all ability levels — especially with quarantines causing people to rely more heavily on the internet than ever before.
Web accessibility refers to the idea that online content should be accessible to everyone, regardless of any disabilities that could otherwise limit their experience while navigating the web. For example, this includes accounting for the needs of those who are blind or experience mobility issues.
For CEOs intent on growing their business and garnering positive public relations attention along the way, web accessibility must become a key priority. Here’s a closer look at why this is the case.
Current Issues Surrounding Web Accessibility
A big part of the reason why web accessibility has become such a hot-button issue of late is because of a flurry of lawsuits surrounding sites that fail to meet accessibility standards.
ADA-related lawsuits have surged dramatically in recent years, with big-name brands like Domino’s Pizza among the affected companies. The Domino’s Pizza case proved especially problematic because of its decision to fight against a lower court’s ruling to make changes to its website. Domino’s recently lost yet again when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear its petition, allowing the original ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to remain in place.
According to CNBC, the Court of Appeals explained its original ruling this way: “Alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises — which are places of public accommodation.”
Domino’s Pizza has continued to attempt to argue that the ADA does not apply to websites, and that “no clear rules exist” for making websites accessible.
The problem is that these arguments are inherently flawed, especially when the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides detailed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The perceived ignorance and insensitivity of the leadership of Domino’s Pizza has only harmed the company’s image, while also racking up court expenses.
If you don’t think ignoring web accessibility will have repercussions for your business, think again. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that individuals with disabilities have more than $175 billion in discretionary spending. The Click-Away Pound Survey, conducted in the United Kingdom in 2016, found that “82 percent of customers with access needs would spend more if websites were more accessible.”
Unfortunately, many websites still have not implemented the changes needed to make their websites truly accessible. In fact, a recent analysis of 10,000,000 websites by accessiBe revealed that 98 percent of websites had menus that failed WCAG compliance standards. The vast majority of websites also had serious issues related to popups, buttons, icons and forms that could keep users with access needs from using a website.
What You Can Do to Instigate Change
Failure to address accessibility needs will result in lost profits and the potential for negative publicity for your business. As the CEO, you must lead out in ensuring that your company is taking active steps to address accessibility issues that could keep part of your customer base from completing a purchase or accessing content.
The previously mentioned WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a valuable starting point for revamping your digital content. You should have your web design team review your digital content and make any changes that might be necessary to bring it into full compliance with these guidelines.
Remember, web accessibility is about much more than addressing the needs of the blind. As the WAI notes, websites must also address the needs of those with auditory, speech, cognitive and physical disabilities. Implementing these changes can also help others, such as those with slow internet speed, individuals accessing the web from a smartphone or smart watch, or even those with temporary situations that may require them to turn off audio while browsing the internet.
As the lawsuits leveled against Domino’s Pizza and others illustrate, ignoring the need to implement web accessibility changes could prove costly for your business. Treat web accessibility upgrades the same as you would any other key business initiative: Set deadlines, follow up and clearly emphasize the importance of this project to ensure it is given the priority it deserves.
Following the initial emphasis on web accessibility, you should continue to emphasize this effort by regularly auditing your content, particularly when new updates are made to your website or apps. Continuing to fine-tune digital content as needed will ensure that you keep meeting the needs of customers of all ability levels. As you give this area the focus it deserves, those working under your leadership will follow suit.
Creating An Accessible Future
Ensuring that your digital content is fully accessible for all users may require some significant changes to the coding of your website, but it's well worth the time and money. By making your company better equipped to serve all potential customers, you stand to avoid negative publicity and improve long-term profits, and you’ll be in a position where you can truly satisfy all your customers.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor