WCAG 2.1 If you had the opportunity to engage potential clients that previously could not access your business, would you consider that a good move? I believe most business owners would agree if the cost to engage the potential clients did not exceed the potential return on investment. Updating your website to make it accessible to individuals with disabilities does not require a significant investment and taking that step may set you apart from your competition. Besides, why wouldn’t you want your website accessible to everyone.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has recommended that all websites follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, just released on June 5th, 2018. The W3C is a worldwide community that develops standards to ensure the long-term growth and standardization of the internet. The June 2018 update is the first in a decade and it sets the standard for the web development industry to follow. WCAG 2.1 details appropriate website accommodations for deafness and hearing loss, blindness and low vision, limitations of movement, speech disabilities, cognitive limitations, photosensitivity, and combinations of these.
How does this impact your business? A website visitor that has a disability may use an assistive device, a modified keyboard and/or software to navigate the internet. If a website is not coded to be compatible to the assistive device, it will inhibit and frustrate the visitor.
The good news is that conforming to WCAG 2.1 improves your website overall and makes it more attractive to search engines. In addition, changes you make to your website to accommodate someone with disabilities makes your website easier to engage for all visitors and that is good marketing. Taking the steps to make sure your website is accessible starts at the top of your organization. Your website is always changing, and you must have policies to insure your staff, or outside contractors have the knowledge to maintain compliance. Your compliance policy does not have to be complicated, it simply should guide your team on why your website should be accessible, the steps you take to maintain accessibility and the appropriate response to an inquiry should someone find part of your website inaccessible.
The first step to insure your website is accessible is to conduct an audit of each webpage. An easy to use tool to assist in the process is available at wave.webaim.org. You simply post the URL and submit; the results will indicate areas that need attention. This website was launched in 2001 and is a free service. This website and other tools are only part of the process because even the best technology can trigger false positives or miss areas that need attention. A web developer with vast knowledge of WCAG combined with the industry tools is your best bet to audit your website, make the changes required for compliance and guide you on a good policy moving forward. Accessibility for all visitors and potential customers, that’s good for business.