Website accessibility isn’t something nice to have with your website. It’s absolutely a requirement these days.
According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, there was a nearly 300 percent increase in accessibility lawsuits against businesses for inaccessible websites between 2017 and 2018, plus a fairly prominent one against Domino’s that might be taken up by the Supreme Court this year.
But beyond the threat of lawsuits, web accessibility matters because people matter. People use different types of devices and technologies because that’s what they have to for various reasons. And if people who use the keyboard or screen reader or something similar can’t use your website, then you have a bad website.
So you should always be on top of your site’s accessibility. And the way to do that is to think about the accessibility of your website from the start.
Why Website Accessibility Matters
The Domino’s Lawsuit
Update (10/7/2019): The Supreme Court declined to take up Domino’s appeal this session, leaving the lower court’s ruling intact. Domino’s will have to defend itself against the accessibility claims, which there’s no timetable for that yet that I can find. Original post now continues.
Currently, the most prominent web accessibility case comes from Domino’s Pizza. About three years ago, Guillermo Robles, who is blind, was unable to complete an order on Domino’s website because the site wouldn’t work with a screen reader. And, as you might expect, Domino’s sees otherwise, hence the lawsuit.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Robles, but the pizza company is petitioning the Supreme Court to take up the case.
At the core of Domino’s argument is that there aren’t rules about web accessibility standards and that the cost would run into the millions of dollar range.
“Unless this Court steps in now, defendants must retool their websites to comply with Title III without any guidance on what accessibility in the online environment means for individuals with the variety of disabilities covered by the ADA,” Domino’s said in its petition to the Supreme Court.
However, I will point out that at the UNT Health Science Center, we have to meet the Section 508 guidelines and aim to meet the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines as well. So those would be a good starting point for any business looking to make their website accessible, hint hint.
And now we’re left with a potential break point for accessibility on the web.
How they could avoid it
The biggest problem I have with this whole ordeal is that this could have been avoided before it even got to this point.
There’s absolutely no reason that this website couldn’t have been built with accessibility at the top of every developer’s mind. It should have been one of the “features” touted with the new site. It could have been something everyone rallied behind.
Not thinking about accessibility with the website design was a choice. It was a choice to not care about users with disabilities coming to their website. And unfortunately, they’re not the only business to make such a poor decision.
If they thought about accessibility from the outset, if they tested it every step of the way, then this issue never gets close to this point. And everybody is able to use the website. Otherwise, this is the end result.
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How to apply that to your website
So now the question you probably have is how can you apply this to your website. And just asking that question already has you ahead of the ball game. Because you should be striving to be better than Domino’s or the countless other businesses that don’t care about web accessibility. Really, you have to be better than this example.
The simple answer is to make sure you’re thinking about accessibility and that the website is built with it in mind from the start. And that’s easy if you’re currently building or about to build a new website for your business. Make the developer and designer know that the website has to be accessible.
But what if you already have a website, and you’re currently happy with it? Well, the first step would be to test it out with aXe by Deque and WAVE, and then use those suggestions to fix the code or have someone do it for you. Plus, make sure all of your images have alternative text and your headings are nested correctly. Those are the quickest things you can do.
The important thing is that you begin to understand web accessibility is something you need to be focused on. It will impact your website and your business; how it will impact those things, either positively or negatively, is up to you.
So keep website accessibility at the top of your mind. Because everybody should be able to use your website no matter what technology they use.