Why Your Business Needs to Promote Disability Independence Online
It’s been just a few short weeks since we celebrated Independence Day, a public holiday that carries a strong sense of national pride for American citizens. However, the celebrations this year were bittersweet for many as COVID-19 responses have meant restrictions on movement and social activities. So lots of people were feeling like they had, in fact, lost some of their independence.
While this is a novel feeling for much of the population, it’s a feeling all too common among those who struggle with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and language barriers. For them, the sense of being disadvantaged and having limited independence is a part of everyday life, especially in the online world. Online barriers are brought into particularly sharp focus in times like this when access to information online is more important than ever. What’s more, there are many more people for whom this is a concern than you may think…
Did You Know?
- 61 million people in America have a disability.
- Approximately 8 million adults in America suffer from attention deficit disorders.
- Around 14 million Americans are living with visual impairments.
- As many as 40 million American adults are thought to be dyslexic (although as few as 2 million may be aware of it).
- More than one in five people living in America speak a language other than English at home.
To help recognize the challenges and needs of those in these groups, National Disability Independence Day is celebrated annually on 26th July. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, on the same day in 1990.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and what does it mean for you?
In short, the ADA legislation promotes equal opportunities for people with disabilities. This means that companies are required by law to make their businesses accessible. Accommodating those with physical disabilities is now widely expected and if you were opening a new retail store or hotel, for example, it would be a no brainer to include access ramps and an elevator to enable all customers to access all areas. However, when it comes to online accessibility, the needs of more vulnerable consumers are often neglected.
This is partly due to the internet being a relatively new concept when the ADA was first put in place, and as such the guiding rules on website accessibility are not as expansive or clear as they are for physical accessibility. The current ADA guidelines state that businesses falling into the following categories must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate those with disabilities online:
- Any businesses with at least 15 full-time employees that operate for 20 + weeks annually (ADA Title 1).
- All public accommodation/service providers like hotels, banks, and public transport providers (ADA Title 3).
Businesses that fail to comply could face legal action, and in the “where there’s blame, there’s a claim” culture of today’s society, the number of web accessibility lawsuits is on the rise. In 2019, 11,053 individual cases were filed through the federal court.
So we recommend that all businesses take steps to improve their online accessibility to avoid legal implications. You should also check to ensure you are abiding by the principles and requirements set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). These guidelines have been compiled by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are the main international standards in making web content more accessible for people with disabilities.
At Recite Me, we are passionate believers that everyone should have equal access to information online and there are numerous reasons to make your website more accessible, aside from simply the legal concerns. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do:
- 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers.
- 83% of people with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible.
- 71% of users leave a site that they find hard to use.
Despite these statistics, fewer than 10% of businesses have plans in place to access the disability market, and an independent study discovered that 97.8% of US business homepages fail to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
If your company is one of them you’re not just risking potential legal action, you’re missing out on revenue as the total disposable income of the US working-age population with disabilities is $490 billion! If you are an employer, you could also be missing out on the opportunity to build a more talented workforce.
Fun Fact: Over 50% of NASA employees are dyslexic!
Promoting Independence & Inclusion
It’s one thing to know you need to improve your website’s accessibility rating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know how. That’s where we come in! When equipped with Recite Me software, websites become instantly accessible, readable, and much easier to understand. The Recite Me assistive toolbar has multiple features that offer a broad range of solutions to accommodate various accessibility needs. The software has been designed with WCAG principles at the core of the product, but our goal is to do much more than simply ‘tick the box’ on compliance for reasonable adjustments. Recite Me is about inclusive individual experiences, where users can:
- Personalize font size, type, and color options to make each web page easier to read. This is beneficial to readers who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, color blindness, or decreased vision in general.
- Download content as an audio file, which is great for those with vision problems.
- Access text to speak functions in 35 different languages, which is beneficial for all site visitors with English literacy issues. The text can be read aloud at different speeds with either a male or female voice, which is great for autistic users too.
- Utilize the screen mask and ruler, allowing those with ADHD and other attention disorders to focus rather than being distracted by other content on the page.
- Convert text content into over 100 different on-screen languages, which is ideal for all of your customers for whom English is not their first language.
- Make use of the toolbar’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus to check word definitions. This is particularly important for users with conditions like hyperlexia, who can read words but not necessarily understand their meaning.
- Switch to “text-only” mode. This feature is favored by those with conditions like Epilepsy, as they can strip away any media or graphics that may cause a seizure.
Become Accessible Today!
If you are not sure how the ADA legislation or WCAG guidelines affect your business or what adjustments you should be making online, then feel free to contact our team for more information or to book a demo. Recite Me is proud to be working alongside many accessibility leaders already, including:
- Dutchess County Government
- Orlando International Airport
- Disability rights groups in Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas, to name just a few.
Try Recite Me for Free!
It is currently more important than ever that online information can be understood by everyone, and the demand for accessible and inclusive websites has never been greater. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Recite Me is offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business, allowing you to share COVID-19 related messages with your staff and customers.
Want to get involved in National Disability Independence Day 2020?
The day is all about celebrating things that are possible thanks to the ADA, and getting involved is easy. Simply post any picture or video of a business that is accessible on your favored social media channel, along with the hashtags #ThanksToTheADA and/or #ADA30. Feel free to give us a shout out here at Recite Me! You can also check out the ADA calendar for events near you, or even submit your own event!