Why should businesses have an accessibility statement?
Accessibility statements are important for various reasons. Whether a company is dealing with the public in person or driving customers to its website, it's important that everyone feels heard. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also helps to create brand loyalty.
An accessibility statement lets the public know that you care about accessibility and being inclusive. People want to support brands that care about their customers and people with disabilities. Having an accessible web design with assistive technologies puts your business at an advantage and demonstrates you're committed to accessibility.
How to write an accessibility statement
When it comes to putting together a website accessibility statement, there are a few key elements you want to include. First, your statement should adhere to the web content accessibility guidelines. The WCAG standards state how content should be created so that disabled users are not put at a disadvantage.
It's also important to mention to users if any exceptions on the website will impact accessibility. Being upfront with users will provide less confusing navigation. There are sometimes varying snags in coding or special features that can't be altered without disturbing the integrity of the function. It's important to keep users aware of any accessibility issues so that they know what to expect.
Next, to ensure accountability, all users should be able to easily report any technical difficulties. The accountability statement should clearly explain how users can let the company know they're having trouble. Customers want to know that you're not only attempting to be inclusive of those with disabilities, but you're also willing to make changes along the way. Being more accommodating shows you care about your customers, so make sure you include a contact page where users can go if they encounter any specific problems with the site.
Also included in your accessibility statement should be a list of what a typical user would expect to find on the website. This can be guidelines on how the website works and functions for users. Those guidelines should spell out how web accessibility is wrapped into the standard practices of the site.
Lastly, make sure that the person reading the accessibility statement leaves the website knowing your company's goal is to have an accessible website for everyone. Users want to see that you're committed to inclusivity. Having a statement that reinforces that goal is a way to connect with your customers. It also helps to add how being accessible is an ongoing project that you're always open to working on.
Best practices for creating an accessibility statement
As much as the effort to have accessibility is an ongoing project, so should the statement proclaiming it. The reality is, creating an accessibility statement is not a one-and-done situation. As a company grows and evolves, so will the needs of the disabled community. Luckily, assistive technology is often part of that evolution, as people are coming up with more and more ways of making things like websites accessible. Your accessibility statement should reflect that your business is undergoing continual accessibility training to keep your website up to date with updated policies.
It's also important that the accessibility statement can be easily found. Imagine if you're new to a website that you’re interested in, but you have a disability and need to understand what limitations you might encounter. The first thing you're going to want to do is to find that accessibility statement. This will set the expectation and let you know if this is the right site to accomplish what you're trying to do.
Another important aspect to keep in mind when writing your statement is your tone of voice. You should write in a conversational tone that conveys your message to the reader. Give the page a clear and relevant title and use simple language. Confusion is not the way to show accessibility, so make sure your user interface components are easily perceivable.
Your accessibility statement should also look the same across all devices, including mobile devices and computers. An individual should have the same access to the statement on their phone as they do on their computer, so make sure you use the same link name on all web pages. Your company should also strive for digital accessibility, which involves removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from being able to access websites and digital tools.
One of the best ways to show accessibility right off the bat is to offer more than one way to obtain the statement. A few examples include extra large text, language settings, an audio file, and even a video version of the statement. Make it clear that your company has taken the proper measures to ensure accessibility for all people.
What are the benefits of having an accessibility statement?
Having an accessibility statement on your website can pose many benefits for your business, such as:
Improved user experience for disabled users
Part of catering to all potential customers or users is providing the atmosphere for a positive experience. That means the interface should be different, depending on the unique needs of the user. Your accessibility statement makes a promise to the disabled user that they are included and should also have a great experience, so make sure you adhere to that.
Increased brand credibility and customer trust
Having an accessibility statement is an important way to increase credibility and build brand trust. Any company can say they stand for equal opportunities and proclaim accessibility for all, but not everyone lives up to it.
The accessibility statement doubles as an accountability statement as time, technology, and the customer base move forward. Staying up to date reinforces a commitment to the public and, in turn, the customer's trust in the brand.
Better compliance with accessibility laws and regulations
Showing in the accessibility statement that your company understands compliance can put the user's mind at ease. Seeing it spelled out means there's a solid grasp of the laws and, by proxy, a better perspective on the user with special needs. The statement also lets users know that you're making sure to keep the site compliant.