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Entering 2024: Accessibility Remains an Overlooked Priority

  • 24 January, 2024
  • Reading Time: 7 mins

The year 2023 saw over 4000 ADA digital accessibility lawsuits filed, indicating a stark increase from previous years. This was a substantial jump from the 2022 figure of 3,029 lawsuits, as per the report published by UsableNet this year. Furthermore, the upward trend is evident when comparing the percentages of lawsuits in federal and state courts, with more state lawsuits being filed in 2023—indicating a shift in the importance of state lawsuits in the arena of digital accessibility litigation.


Is your organization still overlooking the importance of accessibility in 2024?

If yes, it is time to reconsider your priorities and get to a stage where you can be future-ready.

As per the report published by Level Access on the State of Digital Accessibility for 2023, there are some key barriers stopping organizations from prioritizing accessibility. These barriers include a lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility requirements, limited resources and budget for implementing accessibility measures, and a reluctance to change existing processes and systems.

However, organizations must understand that accessibility is not just a legal obligation but also a moral and social responsibility. Ignoring accessibility not only puts organizations at risk of costly lawsuits but also excludes a significant portion of the population from accessing their products or services (Lazar, 2021).

Let’s talk about trends that indicate a shift from mere awareness to integrated approaches to digital accessibility, emphasizing the need for organization-wide commitment and proactive measures to ensure equitable access to digital information and services.

 Two women looking at a laptop screen.


Key Trends Signaling a Shift Toward Accessibility

As the global landscape continues to evolve, several key trends are emerging that indicate a significant shift in various industries.

1. Mainstream Adoption: Digital accessibility has shifted from being a mere trend on the horizon to a crucial necessity as an integral component of digital advancement. Tech giants like Microsoft and Apple, are consistently enhancing their products with built-in accessibility features such as screen readers, text-to-speech, etc. Additionally, social media platforms have introduced alt-text features to promote inclusivity, and educational institutions have increasingly adopted LMS and digital course materials that are accessible to students with disabilities. Moreover, legislative measures like WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) have further propelled mainstream adoption by providing clear benchmarks for accessibility compliance.

2. Commitment to Accessibility: Organizations are actively integrating inclusive practices into their core values and operational strategies. They are not only recognizing the importance of compliance with accessibility standards but are also investing in tools, resources, and training to cultivate a user experience that embraces diversity. These initiatives span across their digital products, services, and platforms ensuring usability for users with diverse needs.

3. Industry-Specific Emphasis: The retail, distribution, and financial sectors have emerged as front runners in the adoption and implementation of robust accessibility policies within their digital frameworks. As per the State of Digital Accessibility report, 84% of retail, distribution, and transport sectors have established digital accessibility policies within their organizations, whereas financial services showcased a high adoption rate of 81% of accessibility measures. Companies within these sectors understand that by implementing accessibility measures, they not only comply with legal mandates but also gain a competitive advantage by reaching a broader customer base.

4. Recognition of Benefits: The recognition of digital accessibility as a competitive advantage has surged significantly, with a striking 85% of organizations acknowledging its pivotal role in enhancing user experience and brand reputation. Companies now understand that by prioritizing accessibility in their digital offerings, they can cater to a broader audience and create more user-friendly experiences. This strategy appeals to a wider audience and embraces people with impairments, improving overall user satisfaction.

5. Perception vs Reality: Despite prevalent high confidence among organizations regarding their digital accessibility measures, a striking reality persists – as many of these same entities continue to face legal actions around accessibility. This discrepancy between perception and reality emphasizes a significant gap between understanding and implementation. Even though these organizations believe they have met accessibility standards, their encounter with legal challenges hints at their potential shortcomings in adhering to standards or overlooking certain facets essential for inclusivity.

6. Leadership Discrepancy: A noticeable pattern within organizations centers on the differing levels of confidence between senior leaders and frontline practitioners regarding the resources dedicated to digital accessibility. While senior leaders express greater assurance in the availability and allocation of resources, frontline practitioners often perceive resource availability in a contrasting light. This variance in viewpoints may arise from leaders having limited insight into the day-to-day operational challenges encountered by practitioners and the obstacles they face or differing priorities or perceptions of project completion. This highlights the need for improved communication, standardized reporting, and a shared understanding of each other’s challenges.

7. Barriers to Progress: Competing demands and time constraints present formidable barriers to the advancement of digital accessibility initiatives within organizations. Amidst numerous priorities and tight schedules, dedicating sufficient time and resources to address accessibility needs becomes challenging. Balancing the urgency of various projects alongside the intricate nature of implementing accessibility measures often leads to delayed or sidelined initiatives. The complexity involved in ensuring comprehensive accessibility across diverse digital platforms further intensifies these challenges.

8. Central Accountability and Proactivity: Successful programs in digital accessibility prioritize its integration into the initial planning stages, ensuring a proactive approach that emphasizes a central role or designated department for accountability. These initiatives recognize that achieving comprehensive accessibility requires a concerted and organized effort across an organization. By designating a central team or department responsible for accessibility, organizations can streamline efforts, set clear goals, and enforce standards consistently across various projects and departments.

A group of people working together on a table.


Proactive Accessibility Strategies for Organizations

Entering 2024, organizations must prioritize accessibility and take proactive measures to address the challenges that exist – implementing regular risk assessments to identify potential barriers and areas for improvement in digital accessibility.

1. Incorporate During Planning: Addressing accessibility early in digital experience creation significantly reduces the need for extensive remediation later in the development cycle. Incorporate accessibility requirements into the initial project scope, ensuring that all design and functionality decisions prioritize inclusivity. By involving accessibility experts or consultants in the early planning stages, potential drawbacks can be identified and addressed proactively.

2. Invest in Training: Provide role-specific training sessions to teams engaged in digital experience creation, including designers, developers, content creators, and quality assurance testers. Equip these teams with comprehensive knowledge about accessibility standards, tools, and techniques pertinent to their roles. Continuous training ensures a sustained understanding and implementation of accessibility best practices across all stages of development.

3. Establish Governance: Create a centralized governance structure dedicated to overseeing accessibility initiatives within the organization. Designate a team or individual responsible for setting and enforcing accessibility standards, monitoring compliance, and fostering a culture of accessibility throughout the organization. Develop clear policies, guidelines, and reporting frameworks to ensure consistent adherence to accessibility standards.

4. Prioritize Accessibility: Make adherence to recognized accessibility standards such as WCAG a non-negotiable priority. Ensure that websites, applications, and digital content comply with these standards, providing an accessible and inclusive experience for users with diverse needs.

5. Proactive Testing: Conduct comprehensive accessibility testing at multiple stages of the development lifecycle. Utilize a combination of automated accessibility testing tools and manual assessments to identify and address potential barriers. Regular and thorough testing ensures the early detection and resolution of accessibility issues.

6. Implement Solutions: Incorporate specific accessibility features and functionalities such as screen reader compatibility, alternative text for images, proper semantic markup, keyboard navigation, and scalable text options. These features enhance usability for users with disabilities and contribute to a more accessible user experience.

7. Stay Informed: Keep abreast of evolving digital accessibility regulations, ADA lawsuits, and industry trends. Regularly review and update accessibility strategies to align with the latest standards and best practices. Engage in forums, conferences, and industry discussions to gain insights into emerging trends and advancements in accessibility.

8. Collaborate with Experts: Partner with accessibility consultants or experts to gain insights, guidance, and support in implementing best practices. Leverage their expertise to conduct audits, assess current practices, and receive recommendations for achieving and maintaining accessibility compliance.

9. Educate Stakeholders: Foster a culture of accessibility by educating and raising awareness among all employees about the importance and benefits of designing inclusively. Organize workshops, seminars, or internal communications campaigns to instill a collective understanding and commitment to accessibility.

10. Monitor Legal Developments: Regularly monitor and analyze legal changes and rulings related to digital accessibility. This proactive approach helps adapt strategies and practices to evolving legal requirements, minimizing the risk of potential legal actions while ensuring ongoing compliance with accessibility regulations.

As we enter 2024, it is crucial to recognize that organizations must transition from mere awareness to taking decisive action regarding digital accessibility. The surge in accessibility lawsuits in the previous year serves as a poignant reminder of the pressing need for this shift. Embracing integrated approaches, valuing inclusive technology, and embedding accessibility at the onset of the development life cycle are pivotal steps. These strategies not only prepare you for the future but also position your organization competitively in the current landscape.


Tarveen Kaur

Tarveen is an assiduous 16-year veteran of the accessibility field. Her advocacy for inclusive education goes beyond her professional role. Tarveen focuses on enhancing accessibility in educational technology by crafting tailored roadmaps and strategies and establishing targeted approaches that align with specific product requirements. Tarveen is clearing the path for a more accessible future by emphasizing accessibility compliance and developing inclusive digital environments.

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