man standing presenting to coworkers about digital accessibility

Tips for Advocating for Web Accessibility Internally

David Gibson

If you're reading this, chances are you're someone who values web accessibility and digital inclusion, and recognizes the potential business opportunities they present for your company. From boosting SEO and DEI efforts to increasing sales and improving website performance, the benefits are numerous. You get it. Now the question is, how do you convince decision makers in your company that web accessibility is worth investing in.

Indeed, selling the idea internally can be a challenge. Many decision makers are simply unaware of the moral and legal obligations surrounding web accessibility, while others only focus on the costs and underestimate the advantages. 

Having spoken to countless executives over the years, I'd like to share some advice to help you convince colleagues and the powers that be that digital accessiblity offers many benefits.

Firstly, let's establish what we mean by web accessibility and ADA compliance.

The term "web accessibility" refers to how websites, mobile apps, website widgets, and SaaS are designed and developed to ensure usability for everyone, regardless of ability or device. ADA compliance refers to the legal requirement for businesses and organizations to ensure that their websites and apps are accessible to people with disabilities, as mandated by Title III of the ADA. In the absence of clear standards from the DOJ, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have emerged as the de facto standard for ADA compliance.

The ultimate goal is to align your website or digital property with WCAG 2.1 A, AA standards. While WCAG 2.2 is anticipated to be released later this year, WCAG 2.1 remains the current benchmark.

Why Web Accessibility and ADA Compliance Matters

Now, let's explore why web accessibility and ADA compliance should matter to you, both from an ethical and business standpoint. Consider the following crucial points:

  • It's the right thing to do: Web accessibility is a fundamental human right. By ensuring that your website or app is accessible, you demonstrate respect for the dignity, equality, and inclusion of people with disabilities, as well as seniors. Additionally, it showcases your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which holds increasing significance for customers, employees, and stakeholders.
  • It's good for SEO: Web accessibility and SEO go hand in hand. Many best practices for ADA compliance also improve your website's search engine ranking. For instance, implementing clear headings, alt text, captions, labels, and semantic markup benefits both individuals with disabilities and search engines. By adhering to WCAG guidelines, you can enhance your SEO performance and reach a broader audience of potential customers.
  • It enhances usability and customer satisfaction for all: Web accessibility not only benefits people with disabilities but also enhances the user experience for everyone. By making your website or app easy to navigate, understand, and interact with, you can increase customer satisfaction and foster loyalty.
  • It expands sales and customer reach: Here's a powerful statistic for you. In the United States alone, there are approximately 61 million people with disabilities and 71 million baby boomers with significant spending power of $548 billion. Regardless of whether individuals identify themselves as having disabilities or not, many will inevitably face challenges related to vision, hearing, cognition, and fine motor skills as they age. The baby boomer generation represents our first wave of digital seniors, and they often struggle with the complexity of modern websites, apps, and devices. Remember the days when VCRs and answering machines were the most perplexing pieces of technology in our homes? Understanding this "Boomer Factor" is key.
  • It provides legal protection: Investing in web accessibility is not just a moral obligation; it is also a legal one. The number of ADA lawsuits related to web accessibility continues to rise annually (2022 web-related ADA lawsuit stats). With over 96% of websites failing to conform to WCAG standards (WebAIM One Million audit), opportunistic plaintiffs and lawyers find it easy to exploit businesses with demand letters and state/federal lawsuits. While some argue that the law is ambiguous, the U.S. Department of Justice has interpreted Title III of the ADA to include websites as places of public accommodation. Failure to comply exposes businesses to costly litigation, fines, penalties, reputation damage, and loss of customers. By aligning with ADA and WCAG standards, you can mitigate these risks and safeguard your business.

Making the case for web accessibility

Now, let's dive into strategies for persuading decision makers to invest in ADA compliance:

  • Do your research: Before approaching decision makers, gather relevant data and evidence to support your case. Conduct a comprehensive accessibility audit of your website or app to identify any issues or gaps that need attention. Benchmark your digital properties against competitors or industry leaders to gauge their accessibility performance. Seek out success stories and case studies from other businesses that have implemented web accessibility and ADA compliance, showcasing the positive outcomes they achieved.
  • Understand the web accessibility process: Familiarize yourself with the steps involved in implementing web accessibility. It starts with a firm commitment and adequate funding from within the organization. Conduct an audit, recognizing that automated tools have limitations and human accessibility auditors are crucial. These experts possess an in-depth understanding of the diverse needs of users with disabilities, the assistive technologies they employ, and the WCAG itself. The audit results will provide detailed guidance for remediation efforts, which should be verified by qualified WCAG auditors. This process may lead to the issuance of a validation letter or the creation of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) if your company interacts with the U.S. federal government or educational institutions.
  • Know your audience: Different decision makers have varying priorities and concerns regarding web accessibility and ADA compliance, depending on their roles and departments. Tailor your message and arguments to align with their specific interests and goals. Use language and terminology that they can relate to and understand. Seek allies within your organization who grasp the risks, opportunities, and obligations of digital accessibility and can champion your cause.
  • Be realistic and flexible: Anticipate potential resistance or challenges, such as budget limitations, technical constraints, or lack of awareness or expertise. Address these obstacles by presenting solutions or alternative approaches. As an initial step, consider establishing a corporate policy commitment that declares your company's support for digital inclusion and its aim to ensure WCAG 2.1 AA compliance for all digital properties, both internal and customer-facing. Be open to a phased approach, recognizing that web accessibility implementation can be a significant investment. For example, you could start with automated testing in the first year and gradually incorporate human testing in subsequent years.
  • What to avoid: Plugins and overlays: Beware of providers offering quick fixes, claiming that their AI-powered solutions can make your site ADA compliant overnight with a snippet of code. Despite initial expectations, these claims are categorically false. Numerous articles debunking these misleading promises exist. However, even if you are aware of the limitations, decision makers who simply search for "web accessibility widgets" may be lured by the offerings of various "overlay providers." More on why to never use overlay plugins or widgets.

Wrapping it up, web accessibility and ADA compliance are not only ethical and legal obligations but also intelligent business decisions that can bring numerous benefits to your organization. Considering that over a billion people worldwide experience disabilities, investing in web accessibility is both inclusive and strategic. By following the tips outlined above, I hope you feel equipped to persuade decision makers to prioritize web accessibility. If you need any assistance or would like further guidance, please don't hesitate to reach out. Good luck!


- Dave Gibson, President


Photo by Diva Plavalaguna