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“I’m sure we can handle it” — famous last words on website accessibility

Nicole McTheny

Posted February 25, 2020

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Go to any conference on web development and you’re sure to see at least one talk on accessibility in the schedule. Companies are waking up to the fact that approximately one in four adults in the United States have some type of disability —a huge market to miss out on if your website’s not easy for everyone to use.

As well as the clear imperative to “do the right thing”, there’s a legal dimension too. Plaintiffs are filing hundreds of lawsuits every month against companies whose websites may contravene the tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These lawsuits are overwhelmingly successful because the precedent is for U.S. courts to interpret the ADA as applicable to websites. And if – or, more likely, when – the court rules against your business, you can be liable for significant legal costs.

Competing priorities

No wonder, then, that web developers see accessibility as a hot topic: if they get it wrong, they can wipe out all the value they bring to your organization overnight. If you have a web development team in-house, you might reasonably expect them to put accessibility education and training near the top of their agenda.

However, that’s not what happens. The world of web development is incredibly fast-paced: there’s a running joke that a new must-have JavaScript web framework is published every day. It’s next to impossible for developers to stay current even with the latest technical releases, bugs, and security patches. If you also expect them to shoulder responsibility for keeping up with the complex, ever-evolving state of legal precedents around the ADA and the W3C accessibility standards, something’s got to give.

Is it good to have a guru?

So, what can you do? One option might be to appoint one of your developers as your in-house accessibility guru if you can find one well-versed in coding an accessible site. The other developers may quickly learn to use a less-complimentary word than “guru” as she cajoles them to bring their code up to standard — but at least you’ll be covered.

But then… what happens when she takes a vacation? Or is off sick for a week? What if she leaves your company for a new role elsewhere? Does everything grind to a halt? Or do you keep pushing new content and features to your website without the safety-net in place?

Do you actually need two, or three, or five web accessibility gurus on your team, to make sure there aren’t any slip-ups? If so, what’s that going to cost?

Leaving accessibility to the experts

Ensuring that websites conform to accessibility standards is a crucial component of modern web development, but it’s only a small part of the total development effort. It’s a domain that requires deep knowledge and constant learning, but that knowledge is not transferrable to any other development-related domain. Any time your developers spend on becoming accessibility experts is time they can’t spend on building features, fixing bugs, and adding value.

In short, accessibility compliance is the kind of specialist skill that you should absolutely be outsourcing, rather than trying to maintain in-house. Just as most businesses (except the very largest) retain external legal counsel rather than having a team of attorneys on the payroll, most businesses should look to an expert partner to audit, monitor and remediate accessibility issues on their website.

At AudioEye, we provide both the expertise and the tooling your developers need to ensure that all visitors find your websites accessible and easy to use – sustainably, on an ongoing basis. We provide fast and effective compliance solutions that keep all your code in line with W3C guidelines, which courts typically regard as a solid benchmark for meeting the usual interpretation of the requirements of the ADA.

Don’t put your development team — or your business — at risk by letting web accessibility issues slip through the cracks. Start your compliance journey with AudioEye today.

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