By Ed Barton, CEO, fusionZONE Automotive, LLC.
That feeling of dread – the letter arrives at the dealership with a return address from an attorney you don’t recognize, addressed to “Owner” or “General Manager.” Inside is a demand letter indicating that your website or mobile application is inaccessible as required under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). You need to contact them right away to correct it and pay their fee, or their client will file suit.
Hundreds of businesses experienced this feeling in the last year, and every company with a web presence has exposure to lawsuits for ADA non-compliance. While I could cover the legal issues, defenses, and remedies for these suits (and I have elsewhere), I want to emphasize here that accessibility is just good business.
The threat of a lawsuit is not the only reason to make your digital environment more accessible. Having a site or app that meets most of the accessibility guidelines improves website and app usability, likely enhances conversion rates and opens you up to more customers.
The immediate thought is, “Why would a blind person shop for a car online?” and while that’s a logical thought, accessibility is more than just for blind people. A few examples to think about:
- Elderly buyers often have hearing or sight challenges where captioning and large print is useful.
- Today’s retirees were in their mid-30’s when the internet exploded and are likely proficient users of the web.
- Most adults under age 75 use a computer and the internet regularly and are tech-savvy.
- Potential buyers with epilepsy may be challenged by flashing buttons and video.
- Individuals with colorblindness require higher contrasts and colors to see the information.
- Accessibility also helps those consumers with temporary disabilities, like injury or surgery.
Digital accessibility can get complicated. There are no clear regulations, and accessibility standards can feel overwhelming and confusing. A few basic steps to make your digital environment more inviting include:
- Keep the site “clean.” Focus on your call to action and critical information. Clutter makes it hard to navigate and hard to access – ADA or no ADA.
- Make sure your images have “alt-tags” and that your tagging conveys the meaning. Images, including banners that contain offers and disclosure language, need detailed alt-tags that express the full meaning. Consider simple images and put your offers and disclosure language in plain text.
- Good technical SEO helps with accessibility. Proper heading structures, page layouts, and tagging help organize a site for both a search engine and accessibility tools.
- Make sure your entire site is keyboard navigable. Some people can’t use a mouse.
- Make sure your forms are accessible and legible when using a screen reader.
- Have an accessibility statement with valid contact information and someone willing to help on the other end of the email or phone.
A bit of research into the alternatives and a commitment to basic accessibility will go a long way to help your digital environment, which will get you better customer engagement and, ultimately, more sales.
About the Author
Ed Barton brings over 25 years of operational, technical, legal and financial management experience to fusionZONE Automotive, LLC. In his role as CEO, he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. Barton has a wide range of experience in B2B and B2C enterprises, including organizations in the consumer products, higher education, professional services, and financial technology spaces. His experience includes CEO, president, COO, and CFO roles in multiple fast-growing Inc. 5000 Companies.