Recently, many lawsuits have targeted SMBs on behalf of consumers with disabilities who are unable to fully access their websites.
In fact, small businesses have found themselves sued at an unprecedented rate in the last several years. And this often happened over websites that were inaccessible. In the U.S., the number of federal website accessibility lawsuits reached 2.2K in 2018. That works out to a 177% increase over 2017.
You own a small to medium sized business (SMB). And remember some of your potential customers are people with disabilities.
Lawsuits sometimes turn out to be questionable or even unscrupulous in nature. And here the onus falls on lawyers who specialize in this type of lawsuit and not on people with disabilities. So it pays for SMBs to be aware of the compliance issues they may encounter.
That way businesses can proactively arm themselves with convenient and cost-effective ways to address problems with accessibility before lawsuits happen.
Compliance is Financially Challenging for Small Businesses
Keeping websites compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) may not be a problem for corporations with sizable budgets, but it’s a real difficulty for small businesses for the following reasons:
- Smaller businesses are more vulnerable to being targeted by unfair lawsuits because they don’t have the budgets to make their websites ADA and WCAG compliant.
Costs can run into the tens of thousands for SMBs to make their sites compliant, so businesses often back burner website accessibility.
- It’s hard for SMBs to come up with dependable, affordable ways to proactively deal with constantly changing regulations—even after they make their websites accessible. The extra workload and expense can be daunting for smaller businesses that are already just getting by financially.
Large corporations like Target—who in 2008 paid a $6 million settlement on a lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind—can handle the extra effort and expense of making their websites compliant. When websites aren’t compliant, big corporations may even be able to shrug off the huge fines and attorney fees.
The average small business can’t.
What Issues do Small Businesses Face in Making Their Websites Compliant?
Small businesses often tend to have websites that need an overhaul before they can be made accessible.
Many smaller businesses haven’t updated their websites for years. These older sites often contain an overload of images, videos and flashing gifs—especially dangerous to consumers with epilepsy—that can make them expensive and time-consuming to update.
Websites can also be difficult for SMBs to keep updated because:
- They are dynamic and new content is generated every day. The tiniest change can break the code and make the website inaccessible.
- Compliance regulations change and adjust so often that it can be especially challenging for small businesses to keep up with these changes.
One example of a small business stretched to the limit by lawsuits is the Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs, CA. In order to avoid further lawsuits, small businesses like the Avanti—which faced up to 25K in damages and fees—had to resort to using plain type on some pages of their website until they were able to upgrade because ‘no access is equal access’ according to the ADA.
How Small Businesses Can Cope
So what can small businesses do to keep ahead of shifting regulations without breaking the bank?
Web accessibility companies like accessiBe hold the key to making website accessibility convenient and affordable for businesses. The size of these businesses makes no difference. These artificial intelligence (AI) solution offer an automated solution to making websites accessible.
- Structural elements: These determine what happens when users click on a header or topic—they help users navigate a website.
- Button functionalities: These determine what happens when a user clicks on a button.
- Object hierarchies: The framework within which the content is displayed so that the user can navigate the site.
After only 48 hours of beginning to scan for this information, the AI has determined the level of significance of each of these components within the context of your website. It then comes up with the best possible accessibility solutions to make the site compliant with ADA, WCAG 2.1 and EU accessibility regulations.
Additionally, machine learning technology keeps gathering information from every website it’s installed on. This means that the AI continually ups its game, becoming more and more accurate and evolving with changes to regulations and your website.
So no need to constantly check to make sure that changes and updates are happening as they should.
AI is an Easier Solution for Large Corporations and SMBs Alike
AI-powered technology allows over 2500 SMBs to quickly and almost effortlessly make their websites compliant. And this technology also helps bigger companies like HStern, Burger King and BMW too. As a result, upgrades can cost hundreds instead of the several thousands to millions of dollars. Of course, this depends on how complex a site is.
Businesses can feel good about making their sites accessible to people with disabilities. And they can do it affordably. But they also protect their businesses from expensive lawsuits in the process. This turns out to be important. Because accessibility lawsuits can often drive SMBs out of business due to expense.
Do be aware that automated testing solutions may not make your site fully compliant. While they can help with some things (Does every image have alt text for screen readers?) they may not be able to verify fully (maybe that alt text is “img7363688.jpg”, which is definitely not a compliant alt tag).
DO use automated testing, but recognize its limitations.
Also, you may be able to find some self-help local communities. If your website is WordPress for instance, you may have a local WordPress meetup that may have a presentation on accessibility if they don’t have anything on the calendar, ask! (You can find videos of past presentations at wordpress(dot)tv.)
It is important to ensure what you need to do in order to become ADA compliant. Consultation with an expert can go a long way.
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