5 Risk Factors Associated with Inaccessible Websites


With web accessibility lawsuits on the increase, it only makes sense to know where your website stands in terms of the risk of being sued.  I like to emphasize risk because it is different for every situation. More about risk in a minute. For now I want to focus your attention on the condition of your website(s). By “condition ” I mean is your website accessible to persons with disabilities?  If you didn’t build it (or have it built) with accessibility in mind, your organization could be at risk of an ADA Title III action against it.  There’s that word “risk” again.  Let’s talk about it now.

Your organizations’ risk is directly proportionate to the number of visitors to it’s website(s), plus 4 other factors.  The 5 risk factors are:

  1. What stage is the project in? Development or launched?
  2. Is the website available to the public?
  3. How many external/internal users visit the website?
  4. What are the total costs associate with the website?
  5. What is the level of effort necessary to achieve compliance?

We can break each one of these risk factors down to their component parts.  With respect to what stage the project is in; many organizations that have already launched and are operating websites will at some point consider updating or completely overhauling them.  That is the time to start thinking about web accessibility.  If the site is already launched then the other factors begin to come into play.

For instance, if the site is public, then you have to ask the question; how many visitors does it get?  If the answer is 0 – say… 10 a day then the risk I’d say is very minimal.  You can take your time fixing your site.  Just put up an accessibility statement page and perhaps allocate remediation into next year’s budget.  But if your site is very popular and gets hundreds of visitors a day then the risk is much more significant.

Another factor to bare in mind is the cost of the website–not only in terms of how much it cost to build, but also how much it costs to maintain.  If you are using a free YourSite.WordPress.com site and you get a handful of visitors a day you can “Fugetaboutit”.  You’ll probably never get popped.  But if you’ve invested tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars into your website and you get massive traffic…and your website is inaccessible… get ready.  And by that I mean “DO SOMETHING”.  Find out if your site is accessible and DO SOMETHING.

The 508 Help Desk is a proactive approach.  You’re probably safe for the time being if you just put up an accessibility statement on your website.  That at least indicates to would-be litigants that you are aware of the issues and are taking steps to improve the accessibility of your site.  Don’t stop there, however.  Hire a consultant to test your website for accessibility issues, or use a service to provide 24-7 telephone support for any disabled person who needs help using your site.  It’s an effective way to provide alternative accessibility.

The final risk factor to consider is the cost or “level of effort” needed to bring the site into compliance.  If you’re a start-up one-person entrepreneur with a brochure website or a few landing pages, you probably have very little to worry about.  On the other hand if your organization earns a million dollars a year or more, and you’re heavily invested in your website you have more significant risk.

So there you have it.  Consider your risk, but more importantly consider the people who need to use your website, but are unable to do so because it wasn’t designed with accessibility in mind.  What are you saying to those people who would like to have equal access to your online business.  By not accommodating this growing population of consumers YOU LOOSE, both by missing out on that segment of the market, and by putting your company at unnecessary risk.

At least do this; find out if your website has any accessibility issues that might prevent a person from enjoying the goods and services your business provides.  Use this free tool to check your site, and don’t forget to thank me!

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