96% of Websites Discriminate Against People with Disabilities. Yet, Nobody Knows
By David Gibson | President
96% is a huge number. It’s an important number. It’s a number that should be cited in every single article about digital accessibility and ADA compliance.
This number comes from Utah State University’s WebAIM’s annual study of the top 1 million homepages. Using software, they tested the homepages of the top million websites against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The WCAG is the de facto standard for the Americans With Disabilities Act, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and is widely adopted globally.
Further, this study did not just find one or two WCAG violations per site. They found an average of 50.8 WCAG errors on each page. So not only is this problem prolific, it is also deep.
Yet, nobody knows.
96% is powerful. This number dispels the assumption that one's company’s website, or the websites one uses to get news, weather, book travel, take classes, find voting locations, and connect with people are accessible. Given their importance to modern life, one might assume so. But if people became aware that 96% are not, people would assume the opposite, as they should.
And are they discriminatory? That’s a strong word. A purposeful word. It evokes emotion and requires action. Today, no company other than small mom and pop shops can honestly claim they’re not aware of all the legal activity related to the ADA and digital accessibility. Those that are not accessible and WCAG compliant, are by choice. They have chosen not to invest the resources needed to ensure their websites are accessible and are therefore “making or showing an unfair or prejudicial distinction between different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, sex, age, or disability”. That is discrimination.
Yet, nobody knows.
The lack of digital accessibility awareness enables both private and public entities to continue digital discrimination. Laws are not enough.
I recently enjoyed a very engaging Digital Accessibility Legal Summit focused on current and potential laws in the US and abroad. We considered digital accessibility of voting, self driving cars, and appliances. We heard from the DOJ on policy and upcoming rule making.
While listening to the engaging speakers and side chat discussions, in the back of my head, I kept thinking that while all of these legal and policy advances are foundational, if we really want to succeed in eliminating barriers to digital content, we must focus much much more on awareness.
It’s not enough to scare website and app owners with the threat of lawsuits. We need to apply pressure from all directions.
Digital Accessibility Needs A Bullhorn
There is no nation-wide advocacy group that I know of yet that is focused on public awareness of digital accessibility. Nobody is strategically considering what current perceptions are and how to shape them. Nobody is creating marketing campaigns to make people aware that there is even a problem.
There are advocacy groups for specific disabilities, such as the National Federation of the Blind, but they’re focused primarily on serving their membership with resources, support, and lobbying.
The International Association of Accessibility Professionals is probably in the best position to serve this role, but so far, they’re focused on membership, education and certification programs.
But nobody is really looking at the big picture and grabbing the bullhorn.
So nobody knows.
How We Could Build Awareness About Digital Accessibility and ADA Compliance
Today we have the tools to reach target audiences with targeted relevant messages - at a much lower cost than traditional advertising. We can test with small budgets in specific markets. We can measure performance and adjust it in realtime.
We can reach the groups with power to apply pressure. BUT they need to be told what the problem is. Why it matters. And what they can do.
How about a campaign that targets management employees?
Did you know that 96% of websites are not accessible to people with disabilities?
Websites are “Places of Public Accommodation” and protected by the ADA.
Is your company’s website breaking the law and discriminating against people with disabilities?
Ask to see your company’s Accessibility Conformance Report
How about a campaign that targets website designers and developers.. and lawyers
You probably know that websites must be WCAG compliant.
And may assume overlay widgets work
Yet automated tools can’t even detect 50-70% of WCAG violations
Only human-based auditing and remediation will ensure ADA compliance.
Let’s target general consumers that indicate a preference for brands with a social/DEI mission.
Did you know that 96% of websites violate the ADA?
Does that sound Inclusive to you?
Web Accessibility Matters
The right numbers and the right words can invoke action. But those numbers and words need to be broadcast to be heard. Until that happens, all of the policies, laws, and lawyers will never deliver digital accessibility.