What is Digital Accessibility
What is Digital Accessibility?
The best way to explain digital accessibility is to start with accessibility in general. No doubt you have seen elevators and ramps in countless buildings, along with automatic doors, and so on. These are just some of the general accessibility options that are made available so that everyone can get through their day, get to work, go shopping, and so on.
Think of digital accessibility as the online equivalent of these types of accommodations. While users don’t need a ramp or an automatic door to get to a webpage, they may need certain tools or design considerations in order to interact with the page just as effectively as anyone else.
Digital accessibility addresses the needs of the widest possible range of people with different abilities and needs, ensuring that they have access to electronic resources including websites, mobile devices, software and applications, e-readers, tablets, forms, and more.
While the internet was envisioned as a tool that would and could work for all people, that has not always been the case. But with the right accessibility standards applied, digital sites and tools get closer and closer to truly meeting the needs of everyone.
When did Digital Accessibility Become Law?
Passed and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act represented an “equal opportunity law” for individuals with disabilities, ensuring that they would have the same access as everyone else to resources, information, services, jobs, and more.
As technology has evolved, the ADA has been modified as well. Specifically, many of the updates to the original law have sought to expand that access to cover the internet, as well as software and other digital resources. And in 1998, sections were added to the law that directly pointed toward a more accessible internet for everyone.
Why is Accessibility Important for My Site?
Very shortly after that 1998 update to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first lawsuit was filed in 1999. The National Federation of the Blind filed suit against Target Corporation, claiming that “Target.com is inaccessible to the blind, and thereby violates federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination against the disabled.” In addition to being the first test of this relatively new law, the suit established the importance of digital accessibility (and compliance) for not only major corporations but every business and organization that had a presence on the internet.
Last year alone, more than 10,163 federal ADA cases were decided – a 33% increase over the previous year. And this number does not include the suits that were settled outside of the court system, or which were subject to demand letters, etc.
As you can see, digital accessibility is important not only because it provides a better website experience for everyone, but because noncompliance can have significant financial and reputational consequences for your business or organization.
Who is a Potential Target of Legal Action?
Simply put, any company, business entity, or organization that provides websites, mobile apps, or other digital tools can be sued for noncompliance. And any digital resource you provide really is covered – if you have PDFs on your site, or an information or contact form … really any electronic item must be accessible.
In addition to the compliance aspect and the potential for legal action, creating the most accessible resources you can help to enhance your brand, bring new customers or clients to your organization, and even drive innovation within your industry.