The importance of website accessibility statements and why you should have one

In the digital age, websites play a crucial role in communicating information and providing services. However, not all users navigate websites in the same way. Recognizing the diverse needs of your audience is essential to reaching the most people, and one way to make that recognition actionable is by having an accessibility statement on your site.

What is an accessibility statement?

An accessibility statement is a concise document that outlines how an organization is working to ensure equal access to its products, services, and content for people with disabilities. It typically includes information on the accessibility standards followed and any relevant certifications. As well, it often includes known issues, contact details for reporting new ones or requesting other accommodations, and an action plan for addressing those concerns. This statement can help people with disabilities know what to expect from their user experience, and it shows that the company values their experiences.

For example: With Pilot’s statement, we share what we are working on in relation to disability education, our commitment to web accessibility, and an acknowledgement that we are still working towards improving our site. Pilot encourages users to submit requests if they see any accessibility issues or concerns. We continuously want to make our site accessible for everyone. Encouraging users to submit accessibility requests fosters a user-centric approach, demonstrating a commitment to addressing the needs of all individuals. This practice facilitates continuous improvement by iteratively refining website accessibility over time.

Why you should have an accessibility statement on your site

Ensuring equal access for all

An accessibility statement serves as a declaration of your website’s commitment to providing equal access to all users, regardless of abilities. It sets the tone for an inclusive online environment where everyone can engage with your content and services. The basis of a strong accessibility statement is often explaining how a site provides equal access- most commonly by adhering to WCAG standards. WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) provides internationally recognized guidelines for web accessibility. 

These are a set of standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure that digital content is accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG provides guidelines and success criteria for making web content perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users, including those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. While an updated version of these guidelines was recently released, WCAG 2.1 is still the current standard and is most often implemented at the AA level.

Legal compliance and avoiding lawsuits

Many countries have implemented regulations requiring websites to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. By including an accessibility statement, you not only can demonstrate compliance with your local laws, but also potentially reduce the risk of facing legal actions related to accessibility issues. 

While neither the Americans with Disabilities Act or WCAG standards mandate accessibility statements, a statement can serve as a platform to share compliance certifications such as VPATs where they’re required. Additionally, including an accessibility statement on your site can preempt lawsuits by providing users with a direct avenue to report access issues, potentially averting legal conflicts before they begin.

Reaching a wider audience

In today’s competitive business environment, many companies recognize the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) practices. Many individuals weigh these factors when choosing whom to work with or for. In these cases, a strong accessibility statement can sway decisions when companies are competing for contracts or talent. It demonstrates a proactive approach to inclusivity and reassures stakeholders of the company’s commitment to diversity. As such, having an accessibility statement can be pivotal in attracting clients, customers, and employees who prioritize EDI values.

Adapting to changing technologies

Technology evolves rapidly, and so do the ways in which users access the internet. An accessibility statement demonstrates your willingness to maintain backward compatibility, adapt to emerging technologies, and ensure that your website remains usable for everyone, regardless of the devices they use.

Tips For Writing An Accessibility Statement 

Writing an accessibility statement is an essential step towards ensuring that your website or digital product is inclusive and accessible to all users. Here are some tips to consider when crafting your accessibility statement.

  • Understand Accessibility Guidelines: Like we said above, familiarize yourself with accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Be specific about which standards (and regulations, where applicable) are guiding your efforts.
  • Be Transparent: Clearly state your commitment to ensuring that all users, regardless of ability, can access and interact with your website or digital product. However, it’s also important to be transparent about any known issues.
  • Explain Your Approach: Describe the steps you have taken to make your website accessible. This could include things like implementing accessible design practices, providing alternative text for images, testing for keyboard accessibility, etc.
  • Provide Contact Information: Include contact information for users to report accessibility issues or ask for assistance. This could be an email address or a phone number dedicated to accessibility inquiries.
  • Timeline for Improvements: If there are known accessibility issues on your website or digital product that have not yet been addressed, be specific about your plans and timeline for fixing them.

Tools and resources for writing an accessibility statement 

Beyond compliance

Website accessibility statements play a crucial role in fostering inclusivity and ensuring equal access to digital content for all users. By clearly outlining a commitment to accessibility, detailing the steps taken to achieve it, and providing avenues for feedback and improvement, these statements help to demonstrate ethical responsibility and mitigate legal risks. And even more importantly, it can improve disabled users’ experiences. A good accessibility statement clearly communicates what accommodations are available, any access barriers to expect, and how to report any new issues to be remediated as soon as possible.

Embracing accessibility isn’t just about compliance— it’s about creating a more equitable online environment where everyone, regardless of ability, can fully participate and engage. Therefore, crafting a comprehensive accessibility statement isn’t just a best practice— it’s a necessary step towards building a more accessible and inclusive web for all.

Posted in Accessibility