There’s a few risks to NOT applying accessibility principles to your website. Some obvious, some not so much. Oftentimes, accessibility is looked at in the sales process as optional. While technically that is true, I would caution this approach. Here are some of the key risks to leaving out accessibility for your next website project:
- Exclusion of People with Disabilities: First and most obvious, you’re naturally excluding users from your site. Without web accessibility, individuals with disabilities, such as visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments, may find it difficult or impossible to use the website. This leads to a significant portion of the population being unable to access information, products, or services. (Hint: less paying customers for you)
- Legal and Compliance Issues: In the United States, businesses are to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in Canada. Non-compliance can lead to legal actions, fines, and penalties (and just general headache). While so far in our experience this is very rare, it seems to be growing in popularity for some predatory law firms. Large DSO and MSO groups (especially those backed by PE money) are likely to become more common targets in my opinion. I don’t like that this is a fear-based approach, but it is a risk to be aware of.
- Reputational Damage: A website that is not accessible can harm an organization’s reputation. It sends a message of indifference to inclusivity and social responsibility, potentially leading to negative public perception and loss of goodwill. Again, this feels rare at this time, but not non-zero.
- SEO Impacts: Many web accessibility practices, such as clear headings, alt text for images, and proper use of HTML semantics, align with good SEO practices. So, if you’re already planning on improving technical SEO, this isn’t much extra effort to get the accessibility part right as well.
- Increased Maintenance Costs: Websites that are not built with accessibility in mind may require more resources and cost to retrofit for accessibility later. In our experience, it is much cheaper (About 5x cheaper if I were to estimate) to get it right at the beginning than to do it after. Do it in the design and architecture phase even before a developer gets their hands on it.
- Poor User Experience for All: Accessibility features often improve the overall user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. For example, clear navigation and readable fonts benefit everyone. You know that feeling when you go to a site and you find yourself squinting because the contrast isn’t good or you’re just annoyed because things don’t feel right? That’s what we’re talking about here. Ignoring accessibility can lead to a generally poor user experience for all types of users.
- Risk of Innovation Stagnation: This one isn’t as obvious but hear me out. Failing to consider diverse user needs can limit the innovation potential of the website. Web accessibility requirements kind of force you to not be lazy when designing a site. There’s multiple ways to skin the cat, but when there’s constraints, you tend to get creative and end up with a better end product.
- Potential for Higher Bounce Rates: Inaccessible websites might see higher bounce rates as users who cannot easily navigate or read the content may leave the site quickly. This is a minor risk, but not non-zero.
Overall, not applying website accessibility principles to your website sucks for both parties. If you’re impaired, you want to be able to use a site. If you’re a small dental office, you have less users and a poor web experience. I understand how the story goes for most regarding the website. You may not have had the cash when you started to pay for a well built website as there were other fires to put out. Now you do. So get it right this time.
Carenetic helps with retroactive accessibility projects but, more importantly, makes sites accessibility compliant from the beginning to avoid this situation for our DSO and MSO web clients.