Online business success has always been a ‘numbers game’. The more relevant traffic, i.e. site visitors specifically looking for your goods and services, the greater likelihood you’ll increase your ROI. That’s a powerful incentive for small business websites, arguably dependent on attracting and converting the greatest number of site visitors as possible, to make greater website accessibility their #1 priority in achieving greater success.
There is, of course, a second, and equally important reason for increased website accessibility: federal mandates. Since the early 2000s, there have been web content accessibility guidelines as well as federal and state regulations governing how websites need to be structured to be inclusive, especially for those with physical challenges. Some of these recent dictates include, but are far from limited to:
- 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA), including the required website standards, December 2018
- OMB M-17-06, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites and Digital Services (PDF, 1.2 MB, 18 pages, November 2016)
- OMB Circular A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource (July 28, 2016)
- Digital Government Strategy (May 2012)
Active Web Group’s Web Designers and Web Developers are fully conversant with these and all updates as part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. It is known that some global brand websites have been sued over their lack of accessibility. It is a mistake for small business web businesses to live in the false hope that their relatively small size renders their site at low risk for legal action due to limited inclusion. The AWG team’s attention to detail means our clients’ risk will be minimal and their potential for increased site visitorship possibly exponential. As for regulatory website accessibility, here are the four required features:
- Website content must be perceivable: all users must be able to easily identify the information presented.
- Websites must be operable: users must be able to interact with a site without difficulty. For example, some visitors cannot use a mouse, therefore alternative ways to navigate must be provided.
- Websites must be understandable: this means visitors must be able to navigate a site with ease, understand its content, and interact as needed also with ease.
- Websites must be adaptive: For web designers and developers, the tools of our trade constantly evolve. It is imperative that these tools be harnessed to accommodate the needs of every potential user through greater website accessibility for all.
There are several groups for which it is essential to adapt websites to accommodate their special needs. They are:
- Eyesight limited users: This group not only includes those with full or partial blindness but additionally individuals with color blindness. A solution for this latter group includes selecting website hues that are high contrast.
- Users who are hearing impaired: For websites that include sound, an alternative is necessary to accommodate those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Text alternatives include closed captioning for video content, or for audio recordings, a written transcription may also be provided.
- Physically limited users: Pointer driven websites pose issues for those with physical limitations. Options include keyboard-driven navigation or enhanced website accessibility through the use of voice-activated controls to advance/move around through the site.
- Users who have seizure issues: Visitors who may have adverse reactions to vivid colors or Flash animation must have their needs considered. Limited use of intense colors and animated effects are recommended. Additionally, an alternative site version should be made available without these effects to prevent a serious medical reaction and increased liability.
- The elderly: Seniors have special needs when negotiating websites. There are numerous ways to improve site accessibility including simplifying how they use keyboards, and view images, menus, and tables, also how forms are designed.
There are many considerations and regulations involved in updating and building small business websites to make online businesses as accessible as possible for every potential user. Numerous web content accessibility guidelines have been drafted to aid web developers and designers, including a set of roles and attributes known as the Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA). However, these guides are not readily understandable by most business owners.
To ensure that your website is fully regulation-compliant and to reach additional demographics, contact our leading digital agency, Active Web Group, to schedule your confidential consultation.