Accessibility During COVID-19 Is Even More Crucial

Accessibility during COVID-19.Document accessibility and website accessibility are even more crucial for organizations during this COVID-19 crisis. So many more people are online now than before, and approximately 1 in 5 of them is someone with a disability. That means your website just became that much more crucial to your organization. But is your website now more of an asset or more of a liability?

Assets of an Accessible Website

If your website is accessible, it means your website just became that much more of an asset to your organization.

Brand/Reputation

Having an accessible site is the right thing to do, and all users will appreciate it because it will result in a better experience for everyone.

It will also leave a positive impression, that your organization cares about doing the right thing.

Functionality

You can more effectively communicate with visitors about your hours, staff availability, services, current and changing needs, and how they can support your organization right now. They can easily get around your site, submit forms, get in touch or consume your content.

With so many more people at home needing to work or be on the computer in the same space, even users without a disability can appreciate the benefits. For example, if your audio files and videos have captions and transcripts and they have trouble hearing over kids playing near them while they trying to work, captions and transcripts make it easier to understand.

Reach and Revenue

You can reach about 20% more users than competitors who don’t have an accessible website. That’s just by them being able to use your website.

In addition to that, you reach more people through Google search engine results. Accessible sites are built better, which results in leaner code, so they load faster. That potentially gives the site a boost in Google search results. Appearing higher in search results could be the edge of a competitor’s listing.

You’ll be able to get more donations or more sales.

Liabilities of an Inaccessible Website

If your website isn’t accessible to all users, then it just became more of a liability—for your brand, reach and revenue.

Brand/Reputation

Your brand is your reputation, and an inaccessible website leaves a negative impression. People are 3 times as likely to avoid an organization with a negative diversity reputation and twice as likely to dissuade others from doing business with it.

A study showed that approximately 71% of users with a disability leave a website that is not accessible. They will go to a competitor’s site instead. They may or may not return to yours.

Functionality

If someone using a keyboard, screen reader or other form of assistive technology (if they use one at all) can’t get around the site, can’t submit a form, can’t access information on the site or from a downloadable document,

Some users cannot get the information they need, unless they’re willing to call and ask, get on live chat, or maybe they need to download a document in order to get information because that information is not available on a web page somewhere. But why make visitors have to take extra steps, if they are able to get that information at all?

Maybe for your audience calling is problematic right now because you’ve had to reduce the number of staff members or reduce their hours. That might mean you may have few to no people taking calls right now. And do you have a TTY line to accommodate someone with a hearing impairment or deafness?

You might say, well, they can just go to our website and get on live chat. But is that accessible to them? They might not use a keyboard, they might have trouble seeing the small or light-colored text in the chat, or they need to be able to speak into the chat and have it transcribe their words.

Maybe they need to download a document to get information. Is that document accessible?

Reach and Revenue

People who don’t know about your organization may not find out about yours. If a competitor’s site is accessible, it may appear higher in search engine results because it’s a better structured, faster and properly formatted website.

This could all add up to a lot of lost revenue. Can your organization afford to turn away business, especially in an uncertain time such as this COVID crisis?

In addition to that, there is the potential for a complaint or lawsuit to be filed if your website and the documents on it aren’t accessible. Legal and other fees may cost anywhere from $4,000 to $100,000, and you’ll still need to remediate the website to make it accessible.

Remediation

Remediation of your site may or may not require a massive overhaul. Accessibility issues could potentially be found in the structure of the site, in the page content (headings, text, images and forms, for example), in the design (color palette and typography) or in the downloadable documents on the site. Your site may do well in some areas and poorly in others.

Websites

There are some automated tools you can use to check a portion of your website’s accessibility, such as WAVE, Axe, SiteImprove and Tota11y. There are also some WordPress plugins that can check and fix some of the found issues.

If you find errors on the site, don’t think that an accessibility overlay, toolbar or plugin is going to be the silver bullet. They’re not, and they can even create additional accessibility issues. They also usually require the user to get around a site in a manner they are not used to. Find out more about accessibility overlays and why they don’t work.

These automated tools are only able to detect approximately 30% of accessibility issues, and if they are able to fix something on the site, they won’t necessarily do so properly. So manual testing and auditing of the website are still needed and should be done on an ongoing basis. It’s not a one-time thing that you fix and then can forget about.

Documents

PDF documents can be checked for accessibility in Acrobat Pro with the built-in Accessibility Checker. However, this does not check for everything, and there are still manual checks of the document needed as well such as for color contrast, what does or doesn’t get voiced by a screen reader, along with the order in which things are read.

If any errors are found, it is much easier and less costly to correct them in the source files, which may be InDesign, Word or another program, rather than in the PDF. Plus, if you have the PDF but not the source files remediated and then make updates to the source files later, remediation would need to be done again to the PDF. So address the source files whenever they are available.

The cost to remediate the source files is dependent upon the condition they are in. If the files were set up properly to begin with, there is much less work involved. In many cases, with InDesign files, we’ve had to start from scratch and lay them out again because they were improperly set up.

Conclusion

Those are just a few things you can do now to check your website and documents for accessibility. But, again, they are not the be-all, end-all of checking. However, you will be able to spot some errors and address some things.

If you need assistance meeting your accessibility needs, there are a few ways we help. We can review and remediate InDesign files, redesign and build an accessible website for you and perform a website accessibility audit on your existing site.

If you want your designer or developer to learn how to build an accessible website and help you maintain it, find out more about my website accessibility course.

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