About 26% of Americans have a disability, a 2019 report by the CDC estimates. E-commerce marketers may think that has no impact on them. But some challenges those consumers face on noncompliant websites include impacts on their visual, hearing, speech, cognitive, and neurological conditions.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are the international standard in accessibility, requiring web content to be accessible to everyone. Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act compels website owners to accommodate people with disabilities in their design and functionality.
Is Your Website Compliant?
Many businesses remain noncompliant; either because they aren't aware of the law or its importance, or because they think the requirements don’t apply to them. However, a site with accessibility problems can be devastating to your business, if left unchanged.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility, for example, specializes in Internet accessibility audits and is one of the providers who can get you on the right path to accessibility compliance. You can also get a free website audit to find out if your website has accessibility bottlenecks.
Consequences of Noncompliance
You cannot afford to ignore compliance if you use a website to interact with the public. It invites unnecessary lawsuits that eat up precious time and money. Let's see how that can happen.
1. User-Driven Lawsuits
Lawsuits against business websites that don't comply with ADA requirements are on the rise. The Los Angeles Times confirms these sentiments in an article published in late 2018.
By June, there were almost 5,000 ADA lawsuits filed for allegations of website violations. Avant Hotel found itself on the receiving end, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint cited people with vision and hearing impairment being unable to use the hotel's website.
Other sources say that 2018, compared to 2017, had a 181% increase in ADA compliance related cases. All these lawsuits were against business sites accused of not complying with ADA standards.
The trend, which some people are referring to as legal extortion, is not ending anytime soon. One visually impaired woman has filed 175 website compliance lawsuits against businesses across the United States.
Experts say that such lawsuits can cost businesses as much as $20,000, but they can be more expensive if defendants choose to fight in court. Litigation is not only costly, but it means wasting valuable business time in legal proceedings.
2. Endless Litigation and Consumer Complaints
Some small businesses prefer to hire lawyers to deal with compliance allegations, instead of fixing the problem. They divert staff time in dealing with consumer complaints. As a result, they encounter legal issues and consumer complaints on an ongoing basis.
Such quick-fix solutions become overly expensive, because they don't eradicate the underlying problem.
3. Brand Damage
One in four Americans has a disability, so there are high chances that some of your website users have special needs. By alienating this portion of your audience, you risk permanent damage to your brand.
You had better comply with ADA standards before it's too late. The risk is not only losing customers, but also the possibility of lawsuit. When such information gets to the public domain, the damage that your brand sustains is almost irreparable. Rebuilding your reputation could take a lifetime.
According to Kaspersky Lab, it costs a small business about $8,000 to repair a damaged brand. The amount can reach $200,000 for enterprises.
4. SEO Ranking
Websites that present high accessibility achieve favorable ranking on Google. A compliant site demands the use of proper title tags, hierarchical heading structure, effective metalanguage, and so on.
A well-formatted structure enables Google to identify the essential features on your site. Such a website is usually friendly to users of a screen reader. The search engine locks out pages that don't exhibit accessibility when ranking websites. Such sites lose visibility when web users are looking for information.
5. Missed Opportunities
An inaccessible website locks out some of the potential customers. Therefore, it limits a business's dragnet for opportunities. Competitors with compliant websites get an edge, just because a large portion of users are searching for a website they can access easily.
The Bottom Line
Compliance to accessibility standards makes business sense. Failure to pay attention to your website or willful noncompliance is expensive. A displeased customer can decide to file a lawsuit. The consequences range from fines to time wasted and brand damage.
Website inaccessibility also costs you customers and opportunities since those with disabilities cannot use your site. Inaccessibility also damages your business’ SEO rankings, which is a huge marketing mistake.
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