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Digital Accessibility: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Introduction

What is digital accessibility? You already know what “accessibility” is: From designated parking spaces to entry ramps, you can find physical evidence of how the ADA has created equal opportunities since it became law on 26 July, 1990. Just like public spaces in America, the technology that you use every day must be available to (and usable by) everyone who needs it, regardless of their disability status.

This applies to emerging technology, too. Think of the last time you went into a store or restaurant, and they expected you to self check-out using a point of sale, or perhaps had one of the screens that turn around to show you a suggested tip at the register. There are ADA requirements about providing space and assistance for people to use it, like a voice that reads the screen for people or subtitles for any spoken instructions.

Now, digital accessibility expands beyond these small encounters you may have had. What’s in the works and what can we expect from digital accessibility moving forward?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Current State of Digital Accessibility

Since the inception of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Internet and all the ways we access it have transformed more than anyone could imagine in the 1990s. Subsequently, various additions to the legislation have cropped up to protect disabled Americans’ equal opportunity rights in the digital sphere.

Do you think you have a grasp on making your online services more accessible? You might be less prepared than you think: In 2021, a stunning 98% of websites were found to be inaccessible. That alienates approximately 61M consumers who, according to Nielsen, more often stay loyal to brands that they know can provide them seamless service. It’s not just about respect or compliance, but tapping the (largely ignored) market.

Necessary Next Steps

When might you need to be mindful of digital accessibility?

  1. Digital tools you offer to make your services easier, like 24/7 customer support

  2. Digital materials you might offer, like videos and how-to files

  3. Creating a site to attract more web traffic, but which is easy to navigate and read

  4. Incorporating digital accessibility into your regular compliance assessments and trainings

  5. Choosing suppliers with ADA-compliant services

  6. Removing pre-existing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from interacting with your technology as it stands today

The precise way that this plays out in your business depends on what online services you offer, if any, and which customer touchpoints rely on digital access. Everyone, regardless of ability, should be able to access and use your digital systems – or have the necessary accommodations readily available.

Cybersecurity and Accessibility

While making changes to your various technology access points, as well as various trainings you might have in place, you want to make sure to maintain the same level of cybersecurity while still making reasonable accommodations.

In addition, mind the ways that cybercriminals might leverage these digital channels to target your customers who have disabilities and are thus using these alternative avenues to access your service. There’s no reason that they should be more liable to cyberattacks simply because they require disability accommodations. In fact, this would directly conflict with their right to equal opportunity under the ADA. It’s important to extend your current cyber-defenses to cover additional forms, landing pages and integrations that you might employ to make your services more accessible, so every customer knows that you have their cybersecurity in mind.

Conclusion

When you address inaccessibility in your digital services, ultimately this makes the technology simpler and convenient for everyone who uses the device or website. Not all disabilities are visible, either; you never know who might need the extra accommodations, but who may be uncomfortable asking. There are myriad benefits, aside from compliance under the law, to improving digital accessibility in your organization.

References

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