Tom Emola presenting on the topic of Website Accessibility to MUPC Consultants
Tom Emola, MUPC and Millikin Alum, presenting on the topic of Website Accessibility to MUPC Consultants.

What is Website Accessibility?

When you think of “accessibility” the first thing that comes to mind might be wheelchair ramps or screen readers, but have you ever thought of website accessibility? Accessibility Coach, Tom Emola, explained how properly coded websites allow all users to navigate and experience a website to the fullest extent. This means making sure that at all types of digital content including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDFs, eBooks, & multimedia content, are accessible on your website. What many people are unaware of is how many different disabilities website accessibility affects. The disabilities impacted by this include cognitive disabilities, voice disabilities, hearing disabilities, seeing disabilities, motor impairments, or a combination of these disabilities. For example, an individual who is color blind may not be able to see the text on a page due to the color contrasts, or an individual who is blind may not be able to receive the same experience from a picture because there is no alternate text. Simple elements of a website that many people are able to enjoy without the use of special features, others are not. 

Why is this important?

Right now, Website Accessibility is something that is often overlooked by companies, and this mistake can lead to big problems. Emola shared that currently, 70% of websites are not accessible, but about 25% of adults in America have a disability. Website Accessibility falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), under Title III where it states that “Services to the general public cannot exclude people who happen to have disabilities”. Because many individuals overlook this, there were 2,258 lawsuits filed for website accessibility alone in 2018, which is up from 814 in 2017. Furthermore, if a website is inaccessible, it can result in the loss of $645 billion in revenue annually. 

What can I do?

Throughout the presentation, Emola emphasized that “a few snippets of code can make all the difference”. This issue may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and tools, it’s an easy fix, and one that could save you and your business a lot of money. A good first step is to become familiar with the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), as well as the Web Accessibility Initiative.You can also try it for yourself! See if your own website, or some of your favorite sites to visit, are accessible. You can do this by unplugging your mouse and navigating to a page using only tab/shift+tab or arrow keys. This simulates how someone who could not use a mouse would navigate a page. You can also download a screen reader to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to use one. The time for website accessibility is now, because once it becomes a legal requirement, all websites will be required to be accessible. Take it upon yourself to stay educated and put yourself in the shoes of someone with a disability who may be accessing your website.