Limit Legal Exposure, Expand Marketing Audience, Improve Branding and SEO
Covid-19 has certainly changed the online landscape for B2B and B2C companies worldwide. Websites have become more important than ever. Morgan Stanley estimates that e-commerce alone grew by 40% in 2020, three times more than in 2018 and 2019(1) .
This increase in internet usage makes having a healthy and accessible website a requirement to compete online. Sites need to be quick, intuitive to navigate, secure, and accessible to visually-impaired persons (who comprise, according to the CDC, of approximately 8% of the total US population).
About Website ADA Compliance
ADA compliance is the civil rights legislation known as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which many of us are familiar with, such as providing accessible parking outside a business or making reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.
What many don’t know is that, according to the ADA, a company’s website is considered to be a public place and subject to the ADA standards as well as physical business locations. The Department of Justice has also consistently maintained the position that websites are public accommodations and organizations should conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
Improving website accessibility means making the site more accessible to those using screen readers (images with alternative text), providing audio alternatives, and ensuring that the site can be visited using a keyboard, among other things. It also addresses color contrast and font size issues.
Advantages to Website ADA Compliance
There are several advantages to being ADA compliant. These advantages include:
- Protects from lawsuits alleging lack of accessibility.
- Lawsuits can range between $5,000 to $25,000 or more to defend.
- Expands market audience to include the disabled population, who are very internet dependent.
- Frustrating experiences with non-accessible websites turn potential buyers away never to return.
- Improves branding for being more understanding and inclusive.
- Helps with search engine rankings by making the website “healthier” per the Google algorithm.
Limit Legal Exposure
Companies with non-compliant websites are being increasingly targeted by demand letters and lawsuits.
The process usually starts with an attorney representing a disabled person sending a demand letter to a company for alleged website inaccessibility. This may be due to the disabled user not being able to fill out a form, properly navigate the site, or not be able to understand the content due to color contrast, font size, missing ALT tags, or some other reason.
Demand letters seeking damages can be very stressful and distracting to address. It is estimated that over 265,000 demand letters were sent in 2020 with 93% of them settling outside of court for between $20,000 and $150,000 on average.
In cases where settlements aren’t reached, a lawsuit may be filed. The number of federal lawsuits filed in 2021 for website accessibility violations increased over 14.7% from 2020. The cost of defending the company against a lawsuit can quickly exceed over $50,000 and take the business owner away from focusing on their business.
Avoid potential demand letters and lawsuits entirely and make your website compliant.
Expand Marketing Audience
Making a website more accessible to the visually-impaired community can potentially expand a business’ market reach by ~8%. According to Statista, 59.6% of the disabled community has internet access verses 78.% of those without disabilities (1). Although a smaller audience, non-compliant websites are difficult to use by that population, causing them to go elsewhere with their business.
Website traffic is an important KPI for website success. If a website is accessible, it will also lower the “bounce rate,” another vital website performance KPI that measures the percentage of visitors that leave from the same page they arrive at without taking action.
There has been a significant push lately for inclusivity. Companies that are better “net-citizens” than others tend to gain favor with the internet as a whole and are more successful. Increasing website accessibility is a positive step toward being more inclusive. No one debates the need for improving website accessibility. There is no friction on this subject, only the cost and implementation associated with being more compliant is where the hesitation lies. The tax credit lowers these costs significantly.
Better Search Engine Ranking
Google has over 200 ranking factors as part of its search engine results algorithm. Although we’ll never know precisely what they all are, Google has made it clear that accessibility is one of those factors(1), either direct or indirect. Specifically, making a website more compliant includes adding text and code that describe images and page content that screen readers visually-impaired people use. Other website health issues include making sure the website loads quickly, has easy-to-use navigation, doesn’t contain any errors such as broken links, and more. The better and more useful a website is compared with a competitor site, the more favor the better site holds and will be ranked higher. It just makes sense. Why leave anything to chance? Especially since it’s so easy to improve ADA website compliance.
IRS Tax Credit for Improving Website Accessibility
The IRS issues a tax credit of up to 50% on qualified expenses, including those related with website ADA compliance. The only restriction is that the costs must be between $250 and $10,000 for the taxable year.
Making accessibility improvements qualifies a business for a Section 44 ADA Tax Credit, which is up to $5000. This is a tax credit, not just a deduction. To claim this credit, simply fill out IRS Form 8826
To qualify for the ADA website accessibility federal tax credit, a company
- must have less than $1 million in revenue or
- no more than 30 full-time employees (30 hours per week for 20 or more calendar weeks).
Websites have been ruled to be “public” by the ADA and the court system, and, as such, are subject to certain accessibility standards that facilitate a disabled-person’s access.
There is little friction regarding accessibility being a good thing, as most people agree. Some of the benefits of making a website more accessible include:
- Decreasing the chance of receiving a demand letter or having a lawsuit filed
- Expanding the potential market audience to include visually impaired population (~8% of the US population)
- Improving the company’s branding and social status for being more inclusive.
- Helping with search engine rankings by making the website “healthier”.
The tax credit is for 50% of qualified expenses between $250 and $10,000, or $5,000 maximum. It’s for companies with less than $1 million in revenue or no more than 30 full-time employees. IRS Form 8826 is used to claim this credit.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about how to make their website ADA compliant, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org