Online accessibility is a growing concern, so we take a look at what that means for your self storage company.
Accessibility is a growing concern among consumers, both because of stronger activism shining a light on issues surrounding disability, but also due to the growing shift towards online platforms and e-commerce. With the pandemic forcing businesses to operate online, there’s been an increase in accessibility compliance lawsuits filed against businesses, especially in regard to online accessibility, seeing a 64% increase compared to 2020. Given this statistic, what reaction should the self-storage industry have? We’ll break down what online accessibility is all about, why it matters, and what positive changes to your own digital platforms look like.
What is online accessibility?
Similar to physical accessibility, online accessibility is the concept that all your digital platforms and content can be accessed easily by everyone without any obstacles. On top of simple design choices that make your website look and function better, this also means catering to disabilities and making sure those who are impaired can still easily access the same information that those who aren’t can. The universally adopted regulations and principles are drawn up from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), appropriately named the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Their principles go through basic layout and design choices, but also deeper coding advice that would allow everyone, regardless of natural ability, to access the content on your digital platforms.
Why does it matter?
You might be wondering why this matters, and why you should make it a priority. We’ve listed just a few below:
Reduce legal risk
Like we mentioned before, the increased reliance on online platforms has naturally increased the number of accessibility compliance lawsuits on businesses. Knowing that, you should naturally want to lower the chance that someone might file a lawsuit against your business. Not only does it take up time and resources to work through a lawsuit, but it also reflects poorly on your company and your values.
Reach a larger audience
By improving your website’s accessibility, you’re opening the door to a much larger audience to sell your service to. The more people you are able to reach, the more people you can potentially convert to customers. Further, your direct competitors might not have taken this vital step yet, if users aren’t able to access the content on their site, they’ll turn to another company. You’ll be able to leverage your website’s accessibility to get more customers from your competitors this way.
Improve general performance
Making your website accessibility better not only helps your customers, but will also often improve the general performance of your online platform. The exact guidelines will be detailed later, but you’ll see that often having your website be accessible also makes it easier to navigate, understand and use.
What does that look like on your website?
The WCAG lays out four key criteria that your online content should fulfill. Online content generally refers to text, photos, videos, and other forms of multimedia.
The content on your online platforms has to be presented in a way that is easily perceivable. For example, this means text alternatives for non-text content such as descriptions of images, visual data representation, audio and others. Also, multimedia on your website needs to be understood by people who can’t see or hear them e.g text transcripts and audio descriptions.
User-interface and navigation on your website must be operable. For example, your site needs to be operable through a keyboard, and content needs to be easy to navigate without time limits. Perhaps more importantly, your website shouldn’t cause any physical reactions such as seizures.
Text has to be readable and understandable. This means it has to be written in a comprehensible language, and preferably in the primary language used in your area. Navigation systems should also be consistent throughout the website, and users should be helped in avoiding mistakes, for example in the form of error messages.
Robust content means it should be compatible with multiple technologies and should be interpreted by multiple assistive technologies. Specifically for self-storage, you should pay close attention to whether any online leasing software you use is compatible with assistive technologies.
How can you avoid accessibility issues?
There isn’t a quick fix for this, but rather a longer process that requires hands-on involvement to make sure your online content becomes and stays accessible. Key to this is shifting the attitude towards accessibility from it being an afterthought to a priority in website development. Make sure either your in-house development meets regulations and guidelines, or you’re actively involved in the process, asking partner companies and agencies whether it’s a priority in their mind. On top of this, accessibility should be front of mind even when the website is completed. Make sure you keep up accessibility best practices and that you continue to meet the correct guidelines.
Accessibility means a lot nowadays, especially with the growing dominance of online platforms. With the rise of accessibility compliance lawsuits, now is as good a time as any to ensure your online platforms can be used and accessed by everyone, regardless of disability or impairment.
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