Accessibility in the Age of the Internet

Is your company's website accessible?
Image three Buddhist monks, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
Image via TGrand via PixaBay

It is highly likely that your place of business is accessible to those with disabilities, but is your website? Installing wider doors, ramps, and lower counters can help those visiting in person, but if your site doesn’t have some basic design features, you may be turning away customers and clients before they even have a chance to be your customers.

All The Pretty Colors

I get it. You want your website to stand apart from your competitors, so you make it colorful. You throw in lots of different colors, or pick colors that are outside of the norm. Why underline links when you can have the text a slightly different tone to alert users to other resources?

Unfortunately, colorblind users may have a difficult time with your selection of website colors. Also, depending on your color scheme, they may not be able to read your text. Is your site heavy on visual aids like graphs? Color selection matters here, too. Adding different patterns to your bar graphs will make it easier for those with color-blindness to comprehend your data. Depending on your target market, this could significantly impact your bottom line.

Why? According to the National Eye Institute, as many as 8% of men have the common form of red-green color blindness (women average 0.5%), which is why Facebook is blue – Mr. Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind. So, does your business see far more men than women? You may want to make sure you’re not turning away nearly 10% of your potential clients.

I Can’t Hear You

Do you post many videos on your website? Are they subtitled? Do you only list a phone number for contact? Nearly 15% of American adults report trouble hearing. Can you afford to ignore 15% of your customers? I didn’t think so.

What can you do about it? Before you post that awesome video on how your product will improve your client’s lives, add subtitles. Make sure your website lists all the ways a client could contact you in addition to a phone number, including email, a contact form, or address for them to stop in to talk face-to-face.

Also, if your business focuses primarily on men, be aware that men have hearing trouble at nearly twice the rate of women. Sorry gents, you just can’t cut a break!

Don’t Leave Your Customers In The Dark

If you want customers, you should put a label on it. Beyoncé I am not, but making sure that using alt text to label everything that is not text content is vital to your visually impaired users. Every image, including graphs and charts, should be tagged so visitors to your site who use text-to-speech programs can be in-the-know.

Labeling the sections, or structure, of your website is also essential to the visually impaired. There are more than 3.4 million visually impaired people in the United States. While this may seem like a small percentage in the grand scheme of things, it is unlikely that having your website designed to meet their needs will add any cost. Doing so could also be the deciding factor between you or your competitor getting their business.

When you’re sitting down to discuss your website with your designer, be sure to keep these statistics in mind. Why turn away clients due to easily resolvable design issues?

UPDATE: Oct 7, 2019SCOTUS upheld the lower court decision in Robles vs Dominoes Pizza regarding ADA compliance when it comes to websites.

The panel held that the ADA applied to Domino’s website and app because the Act mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino’s physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation. The panel stated that the website and app connected customers to the goods and services of Domino’s physical restaurants.

Designing your website to accommodate accessibility isn’t just good business to increase your customers base – it’s a matter of protecting your business!


Sarah Wilde is a writer, Office Ninja, and student in Madison, WI. She’s managed social media accounts, led website redesign projects, as well as learned social media marketing on her own. Once-upon-a-time she was a radio disc jockey and now she studies accounting.