Whether it’s publishing training course materials or launching a new website, one of the most overlooked and frequently missed opportunities is making content as accessible as possible for everyone. When you consider that currently around 10% of the world's population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability, this is an issue organizations cannot ignore.
Technically, accessibility means you are providing a way for all users, including people with disabilities, to interact with your content. So what does that look like? A few ways include:
Aside from just being the right thing to do, online accessibility is the law. Denying people with disabilities the same level of access that people without disabilities have is actually a violation of federal law. If an organization is not ADA compliant, it could face civil action resulting in hefty fines.
Well respected brands have been sued due to violations of accessibility. For example, in 2020, HR software provider ADP was sued by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The suit alleged that blind and low-vision Lighthouse employees couldn’t access and use ADP’s software for simple tasks such as submitting time off requests and signing up for healthcare insurance benefits.
Eventually, the parties agreed on a structured settlement that actually paves the way for very positive changes moving forward. As part of the agreement, ADP said it will work with a web accessibility expert to enhance the accessibility of its products and committed to solve certain problems with its website and app for benefit enrollment by March 31, 2022.
So how did online accessibility become a standard?
As the digital age exploded and technology advanced, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) saw that people with vision impairment were at a growing disadvantage. As a result, they expanded the guidelines for designing and developing Web content to include Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)[SL7] . These guidelines define minimum standards to accommodate people with disabilities who access and consume information on the Web. Yet even with clearly published guidelines, common accessibility issues still get missed.
Some eye opening stats to consider:
The good news is that creating accessible content doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to be prioritized and reviewed by people who understand how to navigate the rules and how to optimize tools. At ACS Learning, we make it standard practice to check content for accessibility and advise our clients on how to make their content accessible to everyone. Over the years, our team has found that ‘doing it right the first time’ provides markedly better training outcomes vs. a ‘clean ups on aisle five’ approach. That’s why we architect content for access on various platforms and format that content for WCAG compliance and ease of use beginning at the design level. For example, when we create visual products such as video, we design for captioning. When we develop documentation, we tag content appropriately and perform accessibility checks during design iterations, using screen readers to test accessibility.
A few tips for making content accessible:
As our society continues to hold businesses more accountable across the board, ensuring accessibility for content and websites will only become more critical for business leaders. Failure to do so will increasingly come with financial and reputational consequences as people with disabilities demand equal access.
Finally, don’t be fooled by the overall lack of “noise” around accessibility compliance - the cases are getting louder every year. Of the 4000 ADA website lawsuits reported by UsableNet, Retail still holds steady as the most targeted industry. 20% of the Top 500 e-Commerce websites received a lawsuit in 2021 and over the last four years 80% of the Top 500 e-Commerce websites have been sued.
Our team is here to help you get ahead of the risk with sound design expertise right from the start. Want to learn more about accessibility? Here are some great resources to get you started: