Website Accessibility in the Era of COVID-19
The Internet is not only a critical source of information; it is also a place for people to conduct business and connect with others. It’s time for businesses to ensure their websites are up-to-date with the latest website accessibility best practices.
Today, there are 7.6 million Americans who have a visual impairment. When websites aren’t designed to fit the needs of those with visual or other impairments, critical information about a business and how to purchase are out of reach. Many of us may take that for granted — especially as we spend a bit more time online due to social distancing and COVID-19. While digital inclusion has always been critical, extended times at home and shifts in how we do business have put a spotlight on the need to make the world wide web more accessible for everyone, regardless of ability.
What Is Website Accessibility?
Website accessibility refers to the design and development best-practices that all users need to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with a website. The most widely accepted standards for website accessibility are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These standards provide guidelines for developing websites that accommodate users who rely on assistive devices, adding a layer of usability and improving the experience for all users.
Why Should You Consider Website Accessibility?
In the interest of making the Internet a better, more accessible place for all users, regardless of impairment, website accessibility should be a high priority for many reasons, including:
- Improve Website Performance — Making accessibility updates on your website can have a positive impact on overall performance, including usability and search engine optimization (SEO). Adding alternative text (aka “alt text”) to your photos, for example, helps individuals with visual impairments understand the images on your website. This also ensures search engines recognize the purpose of your content, helping your overall SEO performance.
- Reach a Wider Audience — By ignoring website accessibility best practices, you may be missing out on nearly 20% of users who have a disability. Adhering to website accessibility best practices and providing easy access to information about your property ensures all visitors have a good user experience. Someone with a visual impairment might not be able to engage with visual-only content, like graphics or video. Providing video transcripts of text content as an alternative can help people who require screen readers to interact with videos on a website.
- Ease Legal Risks — In 2019, 2,235 ADA Web and App Accessibility cases were filed. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t specify websites as a place of business, an increasing number of lawsuits have been filed against companies that don’t have accessible websites. We suggest taking action to prevent litigation by addressing accessibility issues on your website, maintaining an accessibility statement, and providing options for users to contact you when they encounter issues on your website.
- Stand Out From Your Competition — If a potential renter can’t understand the content on your website, they will likely move on to another property in the area. Ensuring your website meets these guidelines helps your property stand out from local competitors who have yet to invest in website accessibility.
- Show Your Customers You Care — Take the steps to make your website more accessible and show your customers you care. You’ll reach a wider audience with a website that communicates your focus on providing a positive experience to your customers.
COVID-19 Is Changing How We Do Business
People are staying home more, meaning that they are spending more time researching and purchasing online. Multifamily renters are still searching for their next apartment, but can’t go on-site for a tour and are now more likely to pay their rent online. Self storage renters need to sign a lease online and access their unit without on-site support. And loved ones and potential residents are still researching the right senior living community for when the time comes. But in all these instances, people rely on property and community websites to gather information and conduct business. An accessible website removes the barriers that might otherwise prevent customers or prospects from doing business with you.
It’s Not A One-Time Fix
Website accessibility guidelines are continuously improving and therefore website owners must remain aware and on top of things to adhere to the latest guidelines. First, new lawsuits can result in changes or additions to the WCAG guidelines. Second, any change or edit to your website — such as adding new photos or changing text– can result in your website falling out of compliance. At G5, we know you care about having an accessible website, but we also know how difficult it is to remain knowledgeable about the ever-changing guidelines. First and foremost our goal at G5 is to always deliver an accessible website and then provide services for our clients that enable us to continuously monitor and remediate the website as accessibility guidelines evolve.
Ensure Your Website Meets Accessibility Standards
Although accessibility lawsuits are on the rise, it is not just about avoiding potential legal issues. It’s about providing a positive user experience for all of your customers — so that anyone can access your website.
That’s why we’re here to help. Download the Website Accessibility checklist to learn the basics and make small improvements to your site today.
If you don’t want to go at it alone, schedule time with one of our website experts to see if G5 might be a good marketing partner for you.