Small business owners shoulder a great deal of responsibility at all times. They must ensure the safety of their employees, the viability of their business model, and the reach of an ever-evolving branding strategy. In today’s marketplace, one of the greatest responsibilities a small business owner must assume when it comes to branding involves maintaining a website that is user-friendly, informative, eye-catching, and engages both current and potential customers/clients. To add to this already daunting task, any small business website run by a U.S. company must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Essentially, ADA compliance better ensures that Americans with disabilities are able to engage with a small business’s website in all the fundamental ways that those users without disabilities are able to. One of the primary compliance challenges that small businesses need to be aware of involves accessibility statements. If you’re a small business owner and you don’t yet have an accessibility statement on your website, you’re going to need to do some research and work to get your site “up to code” as quickly as you possibly can.
Accessibility Statements – The Basics
An accessibility statement is generally given its own page on a business website, although you could potentially incorporate it into another section of your site if providing an individual page for this statement doesn’t make sense structurally for your site. The function of an accessibility statement is relatively straightforward: it allows users to understand how accessible your site is and what accessibility functions you’re still striving to implement. It serves as an acknowledgement that your site seeks to be accessible for all users but that web accessibility is a work in progress.
In your accessibility statement, you’ll want to outline your page’s accessibility standards and guidelines, as well as any exceptions you’ve made to the general rules you’ve just stated. You’ll want to list the resources, tools, and methods your site is using and/or compatible with to provide your users with an accessible experience. Finally, you’ll want to list contact information for the site manager responsible for handling any challenges that users experience when accessing your site.
Expectations and Exceptions
While it’s important to make every effort to maintain full compliance with ADA standards, it’s also important to recognize that these standards don’t always meet the needs of every individual with disabilities. Your site can be compliant even as some users continue to have difficulty accessing every feature of your site. This is one of the main reasons why your accessibility statement should detail any “gaps” in compliance, shortcomings of your site’s accessibility, and/or exceptions to your general accessibility goals that you’ve made intentionally. When a user with disabilities has trouble navigating some aspect of your site, it’s important for that user to understand why there is still an accessibility gap on your site and whether you intend to fix it in the near future. This kind of transparency can help to limit your liability and enhance your users’ experience when engaging with your site. It can also help to build trust between you and your customers/clients with disabilities.