Digital accessibility has become an essential topic among businesses in recent years. Not only does accessibility benefit customers, but it can also help businesses. Companies are paying more attention to making their goods available to consumers of all ability levels to ensure these mutual benefits. They may do so by adapting their online platforms and by making public commitments to accessibility.
While larger and higher-profile companies have been the face of this trend, it’s just as important for small to mid-size companies to do the same. In this article, we’ll discuss why small to mid-size businesses need to prioritize accessibility as much, if not more, than larger companies. We’ll also outline a few tips to make your small business more accessible.
What is digital accessibility?
Before proceeding, let’s cover some basics. What exactly is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility means ensuring individuals of all ability levels can use digital products (websites, apps, smart devices, etc.). This includes making products accessible to persons with disabilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 26% of American adults have some form of disability. Each individual comprising this demographic deserves an uninhibited opportunity to receive goods and services. A business can help facilitate that right by creating products that don’t inadvertently discriminate against individuals based on their abilities.
Companies can help facilitate accessibility by adhering to standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and making necessary product adjustments. Such adjustments include proper color contrast, alt-text on images, and compatibility with assistive devices.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of accessibility, let's go over why small to mid-size businesses should prioritize it.
Easier to adapt
By virtue of their size, smaller businesses are in a better position to embrace accessibility effectively and quickly. As such, they should take the opportunity to make accessibility part of their day-to-day.
Think of it this way: if a large, well-known, legacy company wants to make the switch to be more accessible, it is naturally going to take more time and resources to do so. Because of their size, these companies must go through more steps. These steps include company-wide accessibility audits, rethinking their business model, and retrofitting products on the market.
Smaller businesses don’t necessarily have that problem. While some resource challenges may still be present, a smaller business shifting toward accessibility will naturally not be as dramatic of a feat as a larger company.
For example, startups. They’re in a great position. One of the best ways to ensure accessibility in a product is to ensure that the company values and understands the need for accessibility. Startups are in an ideal position because they can embrace and administer accessibility in the company’s early stages. Embracing accessibility early on is easier than introducing it retroactively. Furthermore, early adoption allows for a company to enjoy any subsequent benefits.
Beneficial in the long-term
Businesses of all sizes owe it to themselves and their customers to be accessible. Not only is accessibility the right thing for a company to do, but it's also smart. Ensuring digital accessibility can help open a business up to the widest possible consumer base. Not only will accessibility open up to customers with disabilities, but it will also create an easier user experience overall. This will keep customers coming back.
This kind of investment can be crucial to long-term growth and success for small businesses. For one thing, it helps establish a good reputation for the business. Accessibility awareness is becoming a common consideration. As such, consumers will gravitate toward companies that show they take it seriously.
Furthermore, a company will earn a steady and extensive consumer base by virtue of this reputation. Profits from a steady customer base can be put into resources to help a small business expand and flourish.
For more information on the benefits of accessibility, check out our article on the subject.
Beyond being right and smart, digital accessibility is the legal thing to do. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal to exclude an individual with disabilities from a business’s places of public accommodation. Areas of public accommodation include websites. Therefore, having an inaccessible website can be considered a violation of the ADA and make a business vulnerable to a lawsuit.
Several documented cases of large companies like Domino’s Pizza, UPS, and Whole Foods face lawsuits for inaccessibility. While it is far from ideal, these bigger organizations are in a much better position to settle and recover from such suits. Smaller businesses don’t have that luxury.
An accessibility suit can cause serious financial strife on a small business. Even if that company wins the case, the amount of time and resources (i.e. legal fees) spent in the process can be hard to bounce back from.
To avoid legal and financial troubles, a small business should ensure it follows any necessary digital accessibility standards.
Ensuring digital accessibility is important for all businesses. This includes small, local, mid-sized, or start-up businesses. Not only are these kinds of companies in a better position to make necessary changes, but it is also the smartest thing for them to do. For one thing, these companies will see tremendous growth in profits and customers by embracing accessibility. Furthermore, they are less at risk of facing ADA-related lawsuits by embracing accessibility.