Here’s why digital agencies must push clients towards accessibility

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When you run adigitalagency, your work doesn’t just influence your ownresults. It can have a direct impact on the success of yourclientsand as someone who runs adigitalagency, this is a responsibility I take quite seriously.

Whether it’sweb design or Google Ads, staying on top of the latesttrendsis essential for helping myclientsachieve their goals.

But while marketingtrendsmay come and go, certain things are poised to have a lasting impact on the way we dobusinessonline. One of the most important areas that is gaining increasingattentionis ADA compliance for websites.

By addressing the requirements of individuals with special access needs,digitalagenciescan help theirclientsachieve greatergrowth. On the other hand, failing to implement these changes in a timely manner could create serious problems for you and yourclients.

[Read: Here’s how to make your virtual meetings more efficient]

The relationship between ADA compliance and web accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, with the specific goal of protecting individuals with disabilities fromdiscriminationinpubliclife. As aresultof thislaw,businesses,schools, government buildings, and other facilities were required to make accommodations to ensure equalaccessfor individuals with disabilities.

The outcomes of this act were wide-ranging, including stipulations such as closed captioning being made available onpublicserviceannouncements and making alterations to buildings to eliminate architectural barriers that would keep someone from being able to get inside.

Though the act was initially designed to address physicallocations, we have shifted to an increasinglydigitalway oflife. Statista reports that over 300 million Americans use theinternet, with only 10 percent of the population stayingoffline. We use theinternetforshopping,news, entertainment and more.

Online and Mobile Commerce numbers via Statista

However, individuals with disabilities frequently encounter barriers that limit theiraccesstoonlineresources. Those who are blind, deaf or have mobility limitations generally require assistivedevicesto use theinternet. To alleviate this, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have been introduced to help website designers ensure that suchneedsare addressed, furtherlinkingthe ADA to theinternet.

The current state of the internet

While guidelines to address theneedsof individuals with disabilities have been made available and widely publicized, many continue to encounter obstacles. In fact, ananalysisof 10,000,000 web pages from accessiBe found that 98 percent of websites failed in at least one WCAG compliance guideline — even though thestudyadmittedly did not count “minor” fails that only occurred once in a website’s evaluation.

Despite this, the majority of websites had compliancefailsin multiple areas, including menus,popups, forms and buttons.

Regardless of the type offailure, the end outcome for theuseris the same. Someone using a screen reader would be unable to navigate a website if apopupwasn’t labelled properly. Others depend onkeyboard-onlynavigation, and can’t use a site if the menus don’t accommodate thisfeature.

When websites fail to comply with WCAG guidelines, they are essentially violating the non-discrimination ideals of the ADA. This can have serious repercussions for yourclients, and for yourdigitalagency.

Whydigitalagenciesmust lead out for an ADA-compliant future

Courts are increasingly viewing websiteaccessibilityas something that falls directly under the ADA. As just one recent example, Lexology reports thatMassachusetts Institute of Technologyand Harvard University are each facing million dollar settlements because offailuresto provide closed captioning foronlinecontent.

Suchlawsuitsare certainly problematic for these majoruniversities. For one of yourclients, it could be completely devastating. The negative publicity, punitive damages and cost of reworking their website to account foraccessibilitywould cause lasting damage. It might even put them out ofbusiness.

Even without alawsuit, failing to account for web accessibility can result in lostrevenuefor yourclients. The 2019 Click-Away Pound Report reveals that in theUnited Kingdom, retailers lose approximately £17.1 billion (roughly $21.3 billion) each year when disabled individuals abandon a site after encountering an accessibility barrier.

Findings from The Click-Away Pound Report 2019

If yourdigitalagencyis inchargeof a client’s website design, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for these losses. Failing yourclientin this way hurts theclientand theircustomers. Itwilllikely also come back to create problems for youragency.Web designagencies have beensuedfor breach of contract because of low-quality work — and a website that causes aclientto getsuedwould certainly qualify.

In the long run, non-accessibleweb designthat hurts yourclientswillharm youragencythrough negativereviews, potentiallawsuitsand lost clients. Taking the initiative in ensuring that you provide ADA-compliant results for yourclientswillhelpeveryoneaccomplish their goals, and most importantly, ensure that a vulnerablegrouphas equalaccesstoonlineresources.

Web accessibility is a win-win

There’sno denying that helping yourclients’ websites meet all WCAG web accessibility requirementswillrequire a bit more work. But this is well worth the investment.

By ensuring ADA compliance, you ensure that individuals with disabilities have the equalaccessthey deserve. Youwillhelp yourclientsavoidlawsuitsand increaserevenue.

When all these pieces fall intoplace, youwillultimately be able to establish youragencyas a proactive, innovative leader — something that is sure to pay dividends for years to come.

Published June 10, 2020 — 12:33 UTC

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