What Small Business Owners Should Know About Accessibility Laws

by Lyssa Prince, Digital Accessibility Program Manager at Oklahoma ABLE Tech

Small business owners wear many hats. If you run a food truck, you’re probably a chef, supervisor, accountant, and excellent at backing up a trailer. You’re likely also a content creator and website builder. You may have heard recently that you should wear another hat – accessibility guru. This article will discuss the responsibility of small businesses to provide accessible content. We’ll also list a few key actions you can take to ensure you reach as many customers as possible. After all, every customer counts!

Legal Landscape for Web Accessibility

Recent guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) says that businesses are required to have accessible web content. Since it was passed in 1990, the ADA has required businesses to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities in all “places of public accommodation.” We’re all used to seeing ramps and accessible bathrooms. This same accommodation should and does apply to the “place” that is the World Wide Web.

The DOJ hasn’t yet released a rule that ties a standard to the guidance referenced above. However, a recent rule that applies to state and local governments set the standard as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It’s only a matter of time before a rule is passed that will set WCAG as the standard for businesses, too.

Unfortunately, lawsuits for inaccessible web content have been on the rise recently. This fact is not included to scare you but instead to prompt you to act now. We are not looking for 100% compliance immediately. We want you to begin taking steps today towards an accessible business culture.

Small Steps Towards Accessibility

Choose an Accessible Website Builder

The website builder you choose is normally the biggest factor in how accessible your website is. Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify are a few of the website builders small businesses use for their websites. Each of these tools has accessibility webpages (linked in the previous sentence) to help you learn about the tools’ accessibility.

Unfortunately, we have not found any website builders that are fully accessible. However, most of the accessibility issues we find would be outside of your control as a business owner. If you’d like more information on the accessibility of a certain website builder, use the contact information at the end of this post to reach out. We’d love to help!

Focus on Your Content

As opposed to your website platform itself, you have complete control over the content you put on your website and social media. The list below includes what we recommend focusing on first. Doing these small things means someone gets to your business’s door and can enter. Not doing these small things means that someone gets to your business’s door and cannot enter.

  1. Add image descriptions to all images.
  2. Include captions on videos.
  3. Use high color contrast.

Make It Easy to Contact You

Last, but not least, make it easy for people who can’t access your content to get in touch with you about accessibility barriers. You can do this by placing an accessibility statement on your website that includes an email address or phone number. This alone can show potential customers that you are willing to accommodate their needs. This should not be an empty statement. If someone submits a barrier, have a conversation, do your best to understand their experience, and make the change if you can. Being open to feedback is so important!

We’re here to help!

We encourage you to message us with questions at abt.a11y@okstate.edu. We’ll point you in the right direction.

You can also learn more ways to create accessible content in our FREE self-paced digital accessibility courses.