When planning a new website build, it's common to think about design, functionality, and content, but rarely are decision makers thinking about accessibility. Accessibility typically appears as a requirement on a list of other requirements, and is only there because organizations do not want to pay a penalty for not being compliant. The threat of this penalty is usually the context in which accessibility is discussed. Sure, it is bad for business to pay fines for not complying with accessibility standards, but there is a bigger, brighter picture here. Accessibility is actually good for business, and it makes sense to build your association's website with accessibility in mind from the start.
Making your organization's website accessible will open it up to a larger audience. Statistics U.S. reported there were approximately 5.3 million Americans living with some form of disability in 2012. (The number has undoubtedly increased today.) This number translates into roughly 16% of the population. To put this in perspective: 11% of web traffic is using internet explorer, 4% using Edge. Would you not optimize your website to serve users employing these browsers?
User Experience and Accessibility go hand in hand. When you are designing your website to meet the goals of your users, you are trying to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they are looking for. Now, picture your end user being partially deaf or blind. The same principles apply to this user except you will have to think about how they will interact with the website in a different way. This in turn forces the design to become more intuitive and less likely to have complex visual cues that distract away from user goals.
Accessibility is also good for SEO. One of the basic requirements of making a website compliant has to do with providing descriptive text for images. This allows screen readers to describe a webpage to a visually impaired person. This is the same markup used by search engines to crawl a website. In-fact, there is a lot of overlap between providing code that is easy for assistive technologies to scan a website and search engines to crawl it. A few other examples that illustrate overlap with SEO are providing captions for various forms of multimedia; ensuring headings, links and labels are descriptive; as well as using consistent structure that is easy to interpret. All of these accessibility requirements lead to increased visibility by search engines and better user experience. It makes sense to consider accessibility when building your website from the start because it overlaps with user experience design, as well as search engine optimization.
The last reason to build your website with accessibility in mind is quite simple: Currently, the AODA (The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) requires new public websites and significantly refreshed websites comply with WCAG 2.0 Level A accessibility requirements. In 2021, the AODA will require level AA compliance. Penalties for not complying are harsh and could rage anywhere between $200 to $50,000 a day depending on the organization. So, there you have it! Legal requirements aside, it makes good business sense to build your website with accessibility in mind.