4 Common Digital Accessibility Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

Published April 11, 2024

Digital accessibility upholds the dignity of the 27% of Americans with various impairments and disabilities. It guides web developers and designers in creating digital products for individuals of all abilities and experiences. This principle has recently gained prominence, with legal bodies mandating adherence and tech giants advocating for its adoption. 

Despite this growing awareness, the projected number of digital accessibility lawsuits in 2023 suggests that many businesses have yet to embrace an inclusive internet fully. This lack of compliance often results from a lack of awareness in implementing effective accessibility strategies rather than willful neglect. However, such ignorance can have significant costs for both businesses and, more importantly, consumers. To ensure compliance, what steps should a business take? This piece will outline four common digital accessibility mistakes and guide how to rectify them. 

Legal obligation

Businesses are required to ensure their websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities in compliance with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 2022, the Department of Justice affirmed this requirement, advising businesses to align their websites with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

In recent years, an increasing number of companies have faced lawsuits for failing to accommodate users with disabilities. These legal actions have led to substantial financial consequences, including legal costs and expenses associated with updating and retrofitting websites to meet accessibility standards. 

Moreover, addressing ADA compliance can help a business's reputation. Inaccessible websites risk alienating customers with disabilities and those who advocate for inclusive practices, potentially driving them toward competitors who prioritize accessibility. 

Therefore, adhering to ADA compliance is a legal mandate and a strategic imperative to protect fiscal interests and uphold a positive public image. 

Mistake 1: Incompatibility with assistive devices

Incompatibility with assistive technologies, such as screen readers, is a frequent accessibility mistake and a common cause of ADA lawsuits. Sites not designed to work with tools like screen readers, magnifiers, and speech recognition software suffer from this problem. Such incompatibility prevents users with disabilities from accessing information and services. For example, if a restaurant's website does not support screen readers, a blind customer would be unable to read the menu or place an order for delivery

To address this, developers must ensure their websites are fully compatible with various assistive technologies. This requires implementing standard web development practices, such as using semantic HTML, assigning appropriate Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) roles, and ensuring all interactive elements are operable with these technologies. Regular testing with different assistive tools is also essential for finding and resolving compatibility issues, thereby enhancing the website's accessibility and usability for all users. 

Mistake 2: Inadequate Keyboard Navigation

Ensuring effective keyboard navigation is vital for digital accessibility. It aids users with physical impairments and those relying on keyboard shortcuts to navigate websites. Without keyboard accessibility, users can encounter issues such as keyboard traps, where they are unable to move focus away from an interactive element using the keyboard. This leads to restricted access to web content, resulting in frustration and exclusion for these users. 

To avoid this issue, developers must ensure that all website interactive elements — like links, buttons, and forms — are accessible via the keyboard. Key practices include setting a logical tab order, providing visible focus indicators for active elements, and adapting complex features like drop-down menus to be keyboard-friendly. 

Mistake 3: Low Contrast Ratios

Another common website accessibility mistake is using low contrast ratios between text and its background. This significantly reduces readability, particularly for users with visual impairments such as color blindness or low vision. The text closely matching the background color can become almost invisible, making the information difficult to decipher. This issue not only presents an accessibility challenge but also detracts from the overall user experience. 

Text and background colors need to stand out clearly from each other to ensure adequate contrast. WCAG recommends a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text. Tools like the WebAIM Contrast Checker can help evaluate and adjust color contrasts on web pages. 

Mistake 4: Lack of Accessibility for Multimedia

A key oversight in digital accessibility is failing to include accessibility features for multimedia content, which can exclude users with hearing or sight impairments. When audio, video, and image-based content lack features accommodating different abilities, it limits user access to information and full participation in digital experiences. 

To effectively address this issue, provide accurate and synchronized captions for all video content. Captions should include spoken words and other significant sounds in the audio track. Designers should offer transcripts for audio and video content, as they serve as an alternative way for users to access information. 

Designers can further enhance the accessibility of video content by incorporating audio description tracks. These tracks offer spoken narrations of key visual elements in the video, ensuring that users with visual impairments can fully engage with and understand the content. 

Web content editors can enhance the accessibility of images by using alternative (alt) text. Alt text is a written description that conveys the meaning and purpose of an image or non-textual content on a website, especially useful for users who navigate sites with screen readers. Effective alt text should clearly explain the content and purpose of each image or graphic. For instance, rather than using a generic label like 'photo,' alt text should provide specific descriptions, such as 'A group of people discussing a project around a table.’ 


Common mistakes in digital accessibility include incompatibility with assistive devices, inadequate keyboard navigation, low contrast ratios, and insufficient accessibility features in multimedia content. These oversights can lead to legal repercussions and damage a business's reputation, besides denying equitable digital access to individuals with disabilities.

Standard web development practices are needed to address these common digital accessibility issues. This includes ensuring compatibility with assistive technologies, providing effective keyboard navigation, maintaining adequate contrast ratios, and enhancing multimedia content with accessible features. Prioritizing these measures is crucial for businesses to create an inclusive internet environment, comply with ADA standards, and fulfill their social responsibility.

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