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Running a small enterprise can be extremely difficult and challenging at times. Owners have to take care of building an operating model, establishing customer relations, taking care of the finances, and several other aspects. That is why they often struggle with the time and money required for many supporting aspects that large organizations can take for granted.
Small businesses also do not have a lot of departments like large companies do. For example, a small enterprise may not have a dedicated legal team that can keep the owner updated about the different laws that can affect the business. Therefore it might be difficult for a small restaurant or a boutique owner to be aware of the digital accessibility laws.
There have been instances when business owners have been handed a notice of an accessibility lawsuit, which made them aware of the digital side of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), section 508, or any other legislation that prevents discrimination. That is why in this article, we are going to talk about the various aspects of digital accessibility that can make or break your small business.
Size Does Not Matter
Many state and federal laws have exemptions for small businesses. Even though there is an exemption clause in accessibility laws, it applies to companies that have 14 or fewer employees and operate for less than 20 weeks in a year. That means only a handful of businesses in America can be considered safe from a digital accessibility lawsuit.
Most companies in America would have to ensure that their website or any other form of online presence is accessible to people with disabilities. Many family-owned businesses in remote places have assumed that they may not have to bother about accessibility and yet had to face lawsuits. Several organizations and owners have argued that the ADA does not specify anything about accessibility on the internet.
However, plaintiffs have succeeded in almost every accessibility lawsuit that organizations had to face in the recent past. In each case, the judge implied that since a website is an extension of the business premises on the internet, it falls under article III of ADA. That means it must be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, just like a brick and mortar store ought to be.
It Is a Big Risk
Small business owners tend to assume that they might fall through the gap since they do not have a million customers like the bigger brands. However, they do not realize that the risk for them is greater than large businesses. An ADA lawsuit can prove quite expensive if the plaintiff wins since the owner would have to pay fines or compensatory damages claimed by the plaintiff.
Small businesses also do not have a legal team, which means they would have to hire lawyers that will add to the legal expenses. Since small businesses have limited funds to dispense, an expensive lawsuit could run them into debt.
According to our surveys, there were more than 100 accessibility cases filed in January 2020, out of which 37 were small businesses like restaurants, wine stores, jewelry shops, family-run boutiques, pharmacies, and even sole owned consultancies.
An accessibility lawsuit could also mean a loss of revenue for small businesses apart from the compensation and legal fees. Since the pandemic started, most small companies are surviving through online sales. But if they get a legal notice, they would have to take their website down till they make it accessible and compliant.
The loss of revenues might get compensated in the future, but the website being down for accessibility compliance can cause irreparable damages to the customer base. Many Americans would not like to purchase from a company that does not believe in a social stance.
Accessibility Can Spell Success
Being legally compliant is just one aspect of digital accessibility. Many small business owners do not realize that making a website accessible can result in a significant increase in revenues and profits. The probable reason is the misconception that website accessibility is an arduous and expensive process.
Owners of small enterprises do not want to redesign their websites and spend thousands of dollars behind something that may not fetch any returns on the investment. Contrary to their belief, there are modern AI-powered solutions that can easily make websites accessible and ADA compliant.
This ensures that the website meets the crucial criteria set forth by current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1).
Small business owners also may not be aware that one-fifth of the American population lives with disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, they have substantial spending power, which means any website that is accessible to them can add them to the customer base.
As we mentioned before, most Americans like to associate with companies that values a social stance. That means your digital accessibility statement can attract customers who are sympathetic to people who face discrimination for their disabilities.
Digital accessibility features also coincide with search engine optimization techniques, which means making your website accessible can help you rank higher. It could increase your incoming web traffic and brand awareness.
Like every coin that has two sides, digital accessibility can also have positive or negative effects on your small business. The best part is that unlike a coin toss, you can choose which side you want. Making your website accessible can not only be convenient but beneficial as well.
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