Web accessibility is a concept that often makes headlines. Earlier this year, Harvard and MIT found themselves facing lawsuits for a lack of online captioning. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice intends to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking this June that will provide guidance on website accessibility for the private sector. The DOJ’s recent, increasingly aggressive pursuit of its enforcement agenda makes it clear that it views online accessibility as importantly as it does physical-world accessibility. Norway’s record-setting legislation for private sector online accessibility kicked in this year as well.
I live in Ontario, Canada — the first jurisdiction in the world to legally mandate web accessibility for government AND private business. Along with the U.S., similar legislation is marching forward in Australia, the EU, and elsewhere. This is a great win for social justice, not to mention the many other powerful arguments for making your sites inclusive (doing the right thing, leaving no one behind, broadening reach, fulfilling corporate social responsibility, etc).
But even if you are able to skirt the law and ignore all the visitors to your site that may be negatively impacted by a lack of accessibility standards, there is one visitor you can’t ignore: Google.