Why Web Accessibility Isn’t a “Nice to Have”

Web accessibility is a must-have

Read time: 5 minutes

It seems like “web accessibility” has become quite the buzzword, huh? 

Since web accessibility came into the spotlight in the late 90s, it’s held varying degrees of importance in people’s eyes.

Some view web accessibility as essential to every website. A key ingredient to any website build that shouldn’t go unnoticed. 

Others view web accessibility as a “nice to have.” Something that comes after all of the web design, development, and automation is implemented.

You can probably guess where Unity Web Agency stands on this subject. 

Web accessibility is fully baked into our process, and we don’t go one step without mentioning or considering it in our plans to build websites for our clients. 

Oh, and we’re proud champions of it as well. 

Our CEO — Alisa Herr — has participated in hundreds of speaking engagements, webinars, and calls highlighting its importance, as well as mentoring those who need help implementing web accessibility into their own lives. 

Our Lead Developer — Andy Marino — is passionate about inclusivity for people with disabilities, and has written a variety of blogs highlighting how impactful web accessibility can be.

Our Graphic Designer — Bud Northern — even put together a series on color and how to use it within the lens of web accessibility. 

The idea behind web accessibility is so important to our team, and it’s why we’re not afraid when we say…

Web accessibility isn’t a “nice to have,” it’s a necessity. 

An Undeniable Truth

Handicap sign

Here’s a fact that’s hard to ignore:

1 in 5 people in the United States lives with a disability.

That’s roughly 19% of the U.S. population, which equates to around 62,890,503 people.

That’s a lot of people living with a disability. And when you consider the number of people in the U.S. who use the internet — 87% of adults as of January 2020 — it should become quite clear just how necessary web accessibility is to the overall web experience.

But that’s just looking at disability in a broad sense. The type of disability a person has varies from person to person, and an experience one person might have could be completely different from another, even if they have the same disability. 

In fact, there are different types of disabilities people need to be aware of. Although there are a number of sub-categories we can go into, we’ve identified five that really need to be considered for web accessibility:

  1. Mobility/physical disabilities
  2. Vision disability
  3. Hearing disability 
  4. Cognitive/learning disabilities
  5. Psychological disabilities

All of these disabilities impact a person’s ability to enjoy the internet properly. Now when it comes to web accessibility, the common focus points are on accommodating people’s differing abilities with touch, sight, and hearing. 

Focusing on these three senses will greatly help in the mission to make a website and the internet as a whole more accessible.

The Legality 

blind-folded woman in dress holding a scale

But along with web accessibility being implemented from a necessity standpoint, there’s also a legal aspect you need to think about as well. 

Bluntly put: you can get sued if your site is inaccessible. 

There have been numerous companies seeing lawsuits because of an inaccessible web experience. One of the most notable cases includes the beloved streaming service, Netflix. The company was sued due to the lack of equal services for deaf and hard of hearing customers by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). A Massachusetts judge ruled that “services that existed solely or mostly online were not exempt from ADA requirements.” 

Not only was this the first of multiple lawsuits the beloved streaming service would experience, but this ruling had major impacts on future online businesses as well. 

And with COVID-19 forcing more people home and online, the number of lawsuits companies are seeing are at a record high. In 2020, there was a 23% increase in web accessibility lawsuits according to UsableNet and the ADA. An additional 660 lawsuits were filed because of the lack of web-accessible practices, and with COVID-19 continuing to force people home for much of 2021, the chances are strong that this number could grow. 

Web accessibility isn’t just a “one-and-done” thing either.

According to that same report provided by UsableNet and the ADA, 20% of the companies who were sued within the last two years were sued again in 2020. 

With more people working online due to COVID-19 restrictions, it’s become increasingly important that your site is fully accessible and is continually updated. 

And if not?

You may end up as part of this unfortunate statistic. 

But along with the legal standpoint, as well as the percentage of people with a disability, there’s one last thing to consider when working to make your website more accessible. 

The Human Perspective

Two people holding hands

Along with everything mentioned, implementing web accessibility is simply the right thing to do.

Think about it:

Wouldn’t it be frustrating to go on a website (one that you may enjoy) and click on a video, only to discover that you can’t enjoy it because you’re deaf and no captions or transcript is available? 

Imagine forcing yourself to read the lips of the speakers on the content. 

Wouldn’t that be frustrating? 

And if a vocal track is playing over some B-roll video footage?

You’re out of luck.

Beyond all of the statistics and the anxiety behind getting sued, practicing web accessibility is simply thinking about your fellow person and inviting them to enjoy your content.

It’s inclusive. 

It’s accepting. 

It allows people a seat at your table and makes them feel like you want them to be there. That feeling, sadly, is not consistent throughout a person’s entire web experience. 

But by doing your part and implementing web accessibility into your website and its content, you’ll have made sure that anyone can navigate and enjoy your website, regardless of ability. 

And that’s a very empowering feeling, for you and your visitors. 

Feel free to reach out to us at marketing@unitywebagency.com for any questions you may have! 

We’d love to hear how you are “making space at your table.” 

And if you’re interested in learning more about what web accessibility practices your website is doing well in, we offer audits that can help you gain perspective on your website’s accessibility through our partnership with Ablr 360. 

We also offer remediation services that not only fix whatever issues you may have but also empower you with the tools and knowledge so you can fix them in the future!