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Debunking Common Myths About Digital Accessibility

Posted January 17, 2023


Posted January 17, 2023

A graphic depicting a magnifying glass over a chart to indicate looking at data, a hand holding a percentage to indicate statistics, and a person in a circle to indicate the focus on website users.
A graphic depicting a magnifying glass over a chart to indicate looking at data, a hand holding a percentage to indicate statistics, and a person in a circle to indicate the focus on website users.

We polled more than 500 business leaders, managers, web designers, and developers to learn what they thought about digital accessibility. Here’s what we discovered.

It’s too expensive.

I’d have to rebuild my website from scratch.

There’s no real business value to making my website accessible.

These are some of the concerns we hear when talking to organizations about digital accessibility for the first time. And while it’s easy enough to poke holes in each one, it’s worth noting that these concerns are one of the reasons digital accessibility is lagging so far behind.

Consider this: In a world where 1.3 billion people live with a disability, 97% of the internet is inaccessible to people with disabilities. That’s a huge gap. But it’s also a big opportunity for businesses ready to invest in digital accessibility.

To better understand why organizations are slow to build accessible experiences, we asked more than 500 business leaders, managers, website designers, and developers about their level of familiarity with digital accessibility, any hesitations they might have about undertaking accessibility initiatives, and whether they truly understand the business value of an accessible website.

Here’s what we learned.

Business Leaders Are Most Confident About Level of Understanding

While a majority of the people we surveyed described themselves as being fairly — or even very — familiar with digital accessibility, more than half of the designers and developers we talked to lacked confidence in their understanding of digital accessibility compared to their manager or leader.

A graphic showing the difference between how leaders, managers, and designers/developers would rate their familiarity with digital accessibility, with 56.94% of leaders describing themselves as very familiar, 85.41% of managers describing them as understanding of digital accessibility, and 50.53% of designers/developers describing themselves as the least confident with digital accessibility, and only fairly familiar.

Debunking Common Digital Accessibility Myths

Unfortunately, this confidence is helping mask some common misconceptions about digital accessibility that impact the way organizations approach any sort of accessibility initiative — particularly when it comes to time, cost, and compliance.

An infographic depicting the top concerns for making a website accessible: 73.63% said cost was a concern, 70.19% said time was a concern, and 66.91% said compliance was a concern.

Myth: Using automated tools on my site is all I need to make it accessible

More than 65% of the people we asked believe that simply adding a toolbar to a website makes it accessible, while more than half said that automation alone can deliver a site that is fully functional for all users.

Here’s the truth: Automation is a powerful tool that is getting better all the time. But automation alone cannot identify and fix every accessibility issue. Take alt text, for example. Automated tools are able to detect whether or not an image has alt text, but they can’t tell if the description is accurate or detailed enough.

A graphic showing that 65.28% of leaders, managers, and designers/developers believe that a toolbar is enough to make a website almost completely accessible, and 56.54% believing that digital accessibility AI tools are enough to make a website compliant.

The same can be said for toolbars. While they enable users to personalize their experience by changing visual attributes like color contrast, text spacing, and visual focus, they don’t offer much support for people trying to navigate your website using a screen reader.

That’s not to say automation and toolbars aren’t valuable. However, it’s important to think of them as tools in a larger toolkit, one that should also include regular monitoring, manual testing, and reporting.

At AudioEye, we believe a hybrid approach that combines the speed and scalability of automation with the precision and expertise of people is critical to achieving and maintaining an accessible website.

Myth: There are no other benefits to an accessible website

Why is digital accessibility so important? We can probably all agree that delivering an equal browsing experience to every website visitor is the right thing to do, but there are other benefits to consider, like improved search engine optimization (SEO).

Many principles of good SEO correspond with the best practices of accessible design. Companies spend tens of billions of dollars every year to improve their searchability. If a search engine like Google is “confident” in both the content and user experience of a website, the site is more likely to rank higher when Google presents its results for a search query.

Then there’s the usability factor. The better the experience and functionality for your end user, the more likely they are to stay on your website.

Myth: Accessibility means redesigning my entire site

More than half of our respondents believe that providing an accessible online experience means starting from scratch — redesigning and redeveloping the entire site.

That invariably sounds both time-consuming and expensive.

While we agree that it’s ideal to design an accessible site from the first line of code, it’s simply not feasible for the millions of sites already in existence.

A visual that shows that 51.64% of leaders, managers, and designers/developers polled believe that creating an accessible website really means that redesigning and redeveloping the entire website is necessary.

Here’s the beauty of AudioEye’s approach. By developing technology that can detect up to 70% of common accessibility issues (and automatically fix about two-thirds of them), we alleviate the vast majority of the redevelopment burden.

And for issues like color contrast, our visual toolkit is instrumental. If your brand colors don’t meet the minimum contrast ratio, a user can adjust that contrast using our toolbar. You don’t need to change your brand or your design — win, win.

Myth: Digital accessibility is only needed for those who are blind or who have low vision

Based on our survey, 63% of respondents believe that visual impairments are the most prominent disability impacted by an inaccessible website.

In reality, mobility problems and cognitive issues impact a higher percentage of the population than visual impairments.

That means digital accessibility is essential for people who are not able to move their limbs and require assistive technology, as well as people who have dyslexia and need the option to change fonts or line spacing.

Or consider someone who has epilepsy and needs to be able to disable animations or risk triggering a seizure. If there’s no option to turn off animations, they’re likely to bounce off your site and not return.

Bottom line: An accessible digital experience benefits users of all abilities. And design doesn’t have to suffer in the process.

Myth: Web accessibility requirements can be ignored because litigation is frivolous and invalid

Shockingly, our survey revealed that about one quarter of leaders believe accessibility lawsuits have no merit. Tell that to Domino’s, whose suit made its way to the Supreme Court.

(Spoiler alert: Domino’s fought accessibility, and the high court refused its petition. Another win in the pro-accessibility column.)

But huge name brands aren’t the only ones. Thousands of small and mid-size businesses are also facing, or have faced, legal action. If you think your business is small enough to fly under the radar and avoid getting sued, you’re wrong. Many mom-and-pop restaurants and small stores have recently fought, and lost, website accessibility lawsuits.

A visual showing that 72.24% of senior leadership polled does not believe that lawsuits related to website accessibility have little to no merit, while 33.33% of managers and 35.79% of designers/developers disagree.

Fact: Web accessibility is smart business

If you’ve fallen victim to believing some of these common myths and misconceptions, the data speaks for itself: You’re not alone. But you can take action.

AudioEye has made it easier to achieve website accessibility compliance without breaking your budget, taking all of your time, or completely redesigning your website. Our hybrid approach to digital accessibility combines the best of automation with an expert touch.

Our solution is always on, so as you change your content, we monitor it for new issues. And our team of Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC)-certified experts can help you through every step of your journey toward digital accessibility, even if you’re facing legal action.

Take the First Step Toward a More Accessible Website

We believe in equal access for all, and want to help you achieve it. Start your free trial of AudioEye today.

Want to see where your website stands today? Get a free scan of any URL to uncover accessibility barriers on your site.

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