As business becomes necessarily more digital (and will likely remain so), make sure you aren’t losing business due to lack of accessibility. It is about more than just compliance. It’s about bringing customers through the front door.
If your business was purely brick and mortar, you would never allow physical barriers to come between you and your customers. You would provide safe and convenient access from the street. Your signage would provide clear and readable guidance—maybe even in multiple languages. Your steps would be level and solid with a good handrail, and you’d provide a ramp for those who needed it. You would provide a wide door with a useful handle well within reach of everyone.
As much as you could control it, from helping them find your location, to completing the sale, you’d serve your customers with efficiency and friendliness. You would want those customers to feel welcome on their first visit and you would want them to return often.
You wouldn’t let weather conditions hinder your efforts. You would clear snow off the sidewalks in the winter and rake leaves in the fall. You might even put up a canopy to block the hot sun and the rain in the summertime.
Temporary conditions would present both challenges and opportunities. Obstructions from road and street maintenance would exasperate you to no end, but you’d find a clever way around them—maybe with additional delivery drivers or a customer loyalty rewards program. Likewise, if foot traffic increased temporarily due to a free concert at the local park or a grand opening next door, you would find a way to capitalize on those events as they occurred.
In short, you would run your business with customer’s needs in mind—but not out of altruism alone. That which is good for the customer, reduces friction, and mitigates objections, will always benefit all parties involved.
In the digital world there are many obvious parallels to this model, but it is easy to lose sight of them if you let yourself get mired in the details of W3C standards, WCAG 2.1 and
Section 508 Compliance.
Certainly, you should understand the standards, regulations and guidelines. You should learn which ones apply to you, and how to meet them. While on the surface, this can seem overwhelming (and for those subject to the government contracts, there may be an increase level of complexity), there are plenty of resources and help to you get into compliance and to stay compliant.
I’d like to dig deeper into this in future blog posts, but for now, consider the following three things.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that more than 1 in 4 Americans have some type of disability. Intersecting all ages, ethnicities and geographical locations, this population is estimated by the American Institutes for Research to have an annual disposable income of about $490 billion. Provide a digital experience free of barriers and they will find you.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires the federal government to provide Information and Communication Technology (ICT) access to people with disabilities. If you are a vendor wanting to do business with federal agencies, alignment with Section 508 Laws and Policies will open opportunities in the public sector.
The number of compliance-related litigations lawsuits are increasing yearly. In 2019, a much-publicized lawsuit in California revolved around a Domino’s Pizza order that couldn’t be completed by blind customer. As soon as the case was argued in the court of public opinion, it was unlikely the Domino’s brand would escape without a beating. The case was also argued in front of the Supreme Court—they lost there as well.
If the last two points weren’t convincing enough, a major benefit of compliance is SEO (search engine optimization). Several recent Google updates have favored compliant websites in the SERP (search engine results page). The Page Experience Update planned for May 2021, will surely add to this trend.
Some of what Google has done is unquestionably a deliberate attempt to encourage accessibility, but much is just the common sense notion that accessibility for the most limited among us aids everyone who seeks a frictionless digital experience.
“Compliance is opportunity!” This sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? I am one who normally would find it difficult to put a positive spin on an adjective that reminds me to eat my vegetables, follow my doctor’s advice and drive under the speed limit. You are likely the same. It’s human nature. Put in the context of accessibility, however, it’s worth considering this word in a new light.
When considering a CMS, look closely at the underlying technology, such as .NET Core that allows developers to better build accessible digital experiences. Look also for extensibility to allow the greatest flexibility when building an accessible website, mobile website and management of your content through other channels such as AR/VR voice and touch.
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J.D. Little is a Senior CMS Market Strategist, a creative communicator, an educator and an advocate for change. Beginning his career in traditional media technology, he has been helping business leaders navigate the waves of disruptive innovation for more than 25 years.
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