There are more than 25 million people in the U.S. with visual impairment. Unless your website has the requisite features to enable the visually impaired to know what’s there, you’re foreclosing opportunities to so many people and exposing yourself to potential problems.
Why make your website accessible for the visually impaired?
There are several compelling reasons to make your website accessible to the visually impaired:
- The law. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires you to provide access to your facilities to the disabled. While there are no DOL rules on this matter, a final rule from the United States Access Board, which was adopted in 2017 and amended in 2018, makes this clear. It specifically addresses web content accessibility guidelines.
- The litigation. There’s been a significant rise in lawsuits against businesses with inaccessible websites. Many have been against major corporations, such as Amazon (which is still going on) and Nike (which was settled). But small firms can be hit just as well. If sued, whether you choose to fight or settle, it’s going to cost you significant dollars and time.
- The customer base. Even if you weren’t required to make your site accessible, it makes good business sense to do so. Why prevent millions of individuals from viewing your site? What’s more, if you do any government contracting, you may lose out if your website isn’t accessible.
What is ADA compliant?
Being ADA compliant doesn’t mean your site is capable of being enlarged to accommodate those with visual impairment. Your site is ADA compliant if it meets the WCAG.2 web accessibility standards referenced earlier. There are several levels of compliance—A, AA, AAA—but at least try to meet Level A standards. Compliance goes beyond this to include (but is not limited to):
- Creating content suitable for screen-readers used by the visually impaired. This means using alternative text descriptions for visual elements and images on your site that can be used by screen-readers.
- Making hyperlinks stand out for those who are colorblind and unable to see that something is hyperlinked (e.g., use underlining to denote hyperlinks).
- Associating text with links so the visually impaired know where the links direct them.
- Making sure that all tasks on your website can be done with a keyboard (and not a mouse).
- Putting alternative text into the code for all images on your site. Technically, this is referred to as the alt text in your metadata for the images.
- Using coding standards for HTML code so that headings properly nest (i.e., subheads are clearly subheads when viewed with a screen reader).
What tax break can you claim for becoming compliant?
As a small business, you may be able to claim a federal tax credit for the costs of creating accessibility for people with disabilities. A small business for purposes of this credit is one that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full time employees in the previous year. You can take the credit every year you incur access qualified expenditures. The amount of the credit is 50% of expenditures over $250 but not over $10,250 (so a top credit of $5,000). While the IRS has not specifically ruled on whether website-related costs are qualified expenditures and there have been no court cases on point, it seems that they would be, given the web content accessibility guidelines explained earlier. Of course, you should discuss your situation with your tax advisor.
You can learn more about this credit in the instructions to IRS Form 8826.
Consider having your website reviewed for ADA compliance. There are several sites that will conduct a free audit, including:
- SiteImprove. SiteImprove helped me to see issues with my webpages that I’m working to correct.
Then consider how to handle corrections and changes to become ADA complaint. For example, SiteImprove offers an annual service that scans your webpages regularly to check for compliance with WCAG.2 web accessibility standards and helps you make changes for this purpose.
There are also some free resources you can use to check for compliance, such as the WAVE Evaluation Tool that you can add to Chrome. Also, work with your web developer to build compliance into your site.