We’ve talked a fair bit about accessibility on Blueprint lately. We’ve shared tips on how to write alt text for better accessibility, takeaways from attending a11y camp, and accessibility best practices for learning management systems.
But what does it all mean for small businesses? Is it fair to expect small businesses to make their website content accessible, taking into account time and budget constraints? Should it be a priority, or is accessibility just something that “big” companies and government organizations need to do?
Whether you’re a small business owner or you work with small businesses, it’s important to understand accessibility and know where you stand, because it can (and probably will soon) have a real impact on your business.
But before we get into why accessibility matters for small businesses, let’s start with a quick definition.
What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the degree to which users with disabilities can access, browse, and use a website. Website accessibility takes into account differing abilities to see, hear, touch, move, understand, and communicate.
For example, users with vision impairments may use screen readers to navigate a web page, while users who are deaf can still experience video and audio content with transcriptions and captions.
Following web accessibility best practices ensures that users of all abilities can consume your content in their own way. But unfortunately, most websites (especially small business websites) aren’t designed or developed with accessibility in mind.
The consequences of ignoring accessibility
Accessibility matters for all businesses, not just large corporations. Here are some of the problems a small business could experience as a result of ignoring website accessibility.
One study found that 71% of disabled customers would click away from a website that was difficult to use. That means if someone can’t use your website because it’s not accessible to them, they’ll do what most users do when they have a frustrating website experience. They’ll navigate back to Google and try a competitor’s site instead.
Loss of potential customers
WHO estimates that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide live with vision impairments, which is about 30% of the population. Plus, there are other disabilities that benefit from accessible features.
Ignoring web accessibility means ignoring a percentage of your customer base, which could have a significant impact on your business.
How many potential customers are you turning away because they can’t interact with your website or app? And how much revenue is it costing you?
While most website users will just click away from an inaccessible website, there have been increasing numbers of lawsuits - especially in the United States. Businesses have been targeted across a range of industries. Recognizable brands include:
- H&R Block
- Bag’n Baggage
Sources: LA Times, Essential Accessibility, 3Play Media
Web accessibility should be on everyone’s radar
Web accessibility isn’t just for the big end of town. While most of the consequences (and news articles) have been focused on bigger brands, all businesses (including small ones) stand to lose site traffic and customers.
And lawsuits are a very real possibility that could be devastating for small businesses.
That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself on web accessibility. Know what it’s about, understand the risks of poor web accessibility, and start taking action to improve it.
Easier said than done, we know. In our next blog in this 3-part series on accessibility from a small business perspective, we’ll dive into some of the challenges small businesses face in making their website accessible.
Make sure you’re following us on Twitter so you don’t miss part two and three. And please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about website accessibility or continue the conversation with us on Twitter.