Making your website accessible to users with disabilities is one of the most critical components of your business website, especially now as we tackle a global pandemic.
And if you didn’t build your website with accessibility in mind, then it’s not accessible.
This leaves both your business and your customers at a disadvantage.
Today, more than ever before, we depend on websites for everything.
Since March 2020, Google searches have doubled from an average of 3.5 billion per day to almost 7 billion searches per day.
We work, study, pay bills, order food, buy basic goods and services, attend virtual meetings, look for employment, stay connected with friends and family, and so much more online.
More importantly today, access to websites helps protect us all by allowing us to effectively practice social distancing and minimize our risk of contracting COVID-19.
But sadly, the vast majority of websites are not accessible and that means that people with disabilities don’t have the same protection from COVID-19 as people without disabilities.
When you consider that the average person with a disability, based on age and prevalence of underlying conditions, is at least 3x more likely than the average American to develop a serious case of COVID-19, which can lead to hospitalization and possibly death…
…Not being able to fulfill their basic needs online can have devastating consequences.
But the need for accessibility is nothing new. It existed long before COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Justice has maintained for over 20 years that businesses must provide accessible websites for people with disabilities in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
So why is it that the vast majority of business owners haven’t made their websites accessible?
There are several reasons.
But perhaps one reason is this:
For many, digital accessibility can seem like an unappealing, tasteless meal that they don’t want to swallow.
That’s because it generally requires extra effort, expertise and expense that a business may not be inclined to take on.
But even though making your website accessible may not seem like the most important thing to focus on right now, there are a myriad of benefits that make it worth the effort.
World hunger or cake?
When you were a child, did mum or dad ever try to persuade you to eat all your food with statements like:
Eat your food — there are people dying of world hunger.”
Eat your food — or you can’t have dessert.”
Which was more persuasive?
If you were lucky to have a parent that didn’t try to force you to eat your broccoli, can you imagine which option you would’ve likely chosen?
Don’t worry, I chose ‘B’ as well 😉
My mum often tried the world hunger guilt-trip on me, but it wasn’t really that effective… at all. On the other hand, enticed with a decadent slice of my dad’s famous carrot cake topped with that delicious cream cheese frosting, you can bet I would eat ALL my food in a heartbeat.
That innate tendency to think first about the rewards… that moist carrot cake with creamy frosting… to think “what’s in it for me?” … it’s powerful.
So when it comes to website accessibility… What’s in it for you?
Where’s the cake?
For starters, you’ll avoid the lost revenue that goes hand in hand with building and maintaining a website that is not accessible.
And this is something that most web designers don’t realize.
It pains me to see small business owners asking for guidance on how to build a professional website for their business, and time and again the answers they receive fall short of the mark.
As a business owner looking to build a website, or revamp your existing site, you ask questions like:
- What’s the best website builder?
- Which website platform should I use?
- What are some tips for building a professional “insert your type of business here” website?
- How do I choose a web designer?
- Should I hire a local company?
- WIll I be able to update my website myself?
It doesn’t matter if you ask Google, other business owners in your industry, your Facebook group comrades or the web guy who lives up the street, for the most part the answers will point you in the same direction…
… to a solution that doesn’t consider the needs of all the people who will use your website.
And isn’t that the purpose of building a website for your business in the first place? To have people use your site and make it enticing for them to buy?
To illustrate, I searched Google for “tips for creating a professional website”.
Of the ten results returned on the first page, NOT ONE mentioned accessibility as a critical feature of a professional website.
…Not the “5 CRUCIAL Web Design Tips for a Professional Site”.
…Nor the “14 ESSENTIAL tips for improving your web design”.
…Not even the “30 TIPS for Building Your First Business Website”.
And this is typical.
With small business owners not being given the information they need to make their websites functional for their customers… ALL of their customers…
Customers, and revenues, are walking out the door.
Here’s what your customers do when they can’t access your site or easily find the information they want
And, they don’t come back.
That’s because your customers value information more than the looks, features and cool factor of your website.
A Hubspot survey revealed that 76% of consumers say the most important factor in a website’s design is that the website makes it easy for them to find what they want.
And a study by Neilson Norman Group revealed that more than 72% of the time, when your customers abandon your site, it’s because they couldn’t find the information they were looking for.
Andy Crestodina, CMO of Orbit Media, states:
Websites should be beautiful. They should have a visual or emotional impact on the visitors. But the success of your website goes far beyond beauty. It’s about helping visitors find what they need. That is […] the true purpose of web design.”
I couldn’t agree more.
The bottom line is this:
Your customers want information. They want access to your content, goods and services. If you don’t give it to them, they will look elsewhere.
Every time a visitor abandons your site because they can’t find what they want, your business loses money.
Every time someone with a disability tries to access your inaccessible website, they WILL 100% without a doubt abandon your site, and they won’t come back. Why would they? They can’t find what they need.
With over 60 million people (or 25% of the population) in the US with a disability. That’s a TON of lost revenue for your business.
In fact, studies have shown that the spending power of people with disabilities when coupled with the spending power of their family, friends and caregivers (in other words, the people that care for them and spend on behalf of them), is $4.5 trillion in the USA alone and $8 trillion worldwide.
In this Coronavirus climate, can any business really afford to leave a dime on the table? Can you afford not to include this trillion dollar market?
Making your website accessible is the only way to ensure that all site visitors can find the information they need on your website…
…The information they need to do business with you.
So you can have your cake, and eat it too.
If making your website accessible is like “eating your nutritious food”…
And experiencing its positive impact is like “enjoying that tasty dessert that you’ve earned and deserve”…
Then building a website that isn’t accessible, and letting it remain that way, is like taking a whole layer off the top of that delectable 4-layer slice of cake and throwing it in the garbage.
It’s CHEATING yourself.
And sadly, it’s also CHEATING those people whose lives could be transformed by your service or product…
I don’t think any of us could come up with a good reason as to why we’d want to do that.
So what else is so tasty and delectable about that 4-layer slice of accessibility cake?
In part 2 of this series, I’ll break down another “irresistible” incentive for you to make your website accessible sooner rather than later… before the litigation attorneys come knocking.
In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on website design and accessibility below.