508 Compliance: What is it, why you care, and why your users and customers care
Not 508 compliant? You’re leaving easy money on the table.
508 Compliance, sometimes referred to as 508 Accessibility Rules, is a series of requirements that make websites easy (or at least easier) for people with disabilities (PWDs) to use.
As a web developer I often encounter business owners who claim they “don’t care” about accessibility. They’re wrong, although they don’t know it. They care. They care a lot. And 508 compliance isn’t particularly difficult to add.
As a business owner, marketer, or web developer who wants your business owner and marketers to be happy, you have lots of reasons to care and really, really want to make your site 508 Compliant. You don’t just care because you’re a good person and want to ensure everyone can use your site, not that this is a bad reason. The more important reason you care is that making your site accessible benefits your business in so many ways:
- Marketplace: In the U.S. alone, an estimated 57 million adults have disabilities that impair their ability to use the web. Meanwhile, the best estimates (or, my informal research) suggest only 3 percent of all commercial websites are 508 compliant. If you are and your competitors aren’t, you’ll own this share of your market without even breathing hard.
- Findability: Google loves accessibility. It’s crafted its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) rules in such a way that 508 compliance automatically boosts your page ranking on the search engine. Following the rules will automatically get you more page views, therefore making your site more valuable to you. A future post will talk about this in more depth . For now, just remember that accessibility makes you money.
- Everyone benefits: Accessibility doesn’t only benefit your disabled customers. It makes your site easier for everyone to use. To give you a sense of why this is: Don’t you hate it when a site doesn’t resize for your smartphone, or worse, has a mobile site with limited use? Then the links are hard to press, or the text is too small, or there’s sound that plays automatically, or any number of other annoyances. Making your site accessible solves all of these problems with no additional effort. Being able to resize a page at will makes it easier for users with poor vision to read your page. Not having sound play automatically makes the site easy for a screen reader to use, not to mention customers who are covertly reading your site from their work cubicles. Having links that don’t require precision to open makes it easier for everyone to accurately click them.
Gina has come home from work. (For a reminder on who Gina is, click here.) Her electric wheelchair is acting funny, with lots of strange steering issues. The only person who can service it is at the big hospital downtown, which has a convenient online scheduling system on the hospital website.
Had the hospital made its site accessible, it wouldn’t be losing Gina – and anyone else in a similar situation – as a customer. Had the site merely been resized for mobile use, that easy step would have eliminated a huge number of problems. Everything would have been larger and therefore more clickable.
Another simple technique: The hospital could have given all of its links a larger clicking area. There are several alternatives for achieving this that won’t break the bank.
People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States, and, sadly, the easiest to join. They’re also among the most marginalized … including, strangely, being marginalized in terms of businesses making themselves harder to buy from. Make your website accessible to them and you’ll help end some of that marginalization. That’s a good thing.
You’ll also turn them into your customers. And that’s an even better thing.
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Want a free 508 compliance assessment? Contact me here.