Many companies have one glaring problem with their websites they’re often not even aware of: the sites are not accessible to people with disabilities. According to a recent study by website accessibility consulting and research company WebAIM, over 96 percent of the top one million websites are not fully accessible. What does that mean? Essentially, most websites have some kind of detectable failure to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which spells out standards websites must meet to be considered fully accessible. Some of the most common of these failures include low contrast text, missing alternative text for images, empty links, missing form labels, empty buttons and missing document language.
While many companies have invested in making their websites more accessible, reaching full accessibility takes a lot of time and can be costly. What is arguably more costly, though, is leaving many users with disabilities unable to use company websites. According to CrownPeak, companies who fail to meet accessibility compliance are turning down a share of a $1.2 trillion market, with $500 billion in buying power held by Americans with disabilities alone. That’s huge considering 71 percent of users with disabilities say they will leave a website if it’s not accessible.
Thankfully, there is an entire industry for helping companies become more accessible to their users. Two of those companies, Arlington-based Level Access and Toronto’s eSSENTIAL Accessibility, announced in June they were combining forces to help make fully accessible internet a reality. The merger closed in August.
“The eSSENTIAL Accessibility team has created a category-defining Accessibility-as-a-Service platform that has made digital accessibility approachable and attainable for the broader market,” Level Access CEO and founder Tim Springer said in a statement. “Our mission is to make the digital world more accessible, and this match would make that vision more possible than ever before. Level Access was founded on the idea that all people should be able to live their fullest lives through equal access to technology and combining with eSSENTIAL Accessibility would catalyze that end, as we have long shared the same drive to change the world through expansion of access.”
Both Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility help companies make their websites more accessible based on a wide array of disability needs.
Founded in 1997 by a team of engineers with disabilities, Level Access offers software, consulting and training solutions to bring websites fully up to accessibility and compliance standards. Accessibility-as-a-Service platform eSSENTIAL Accessibility enables brands to deliver inclusive web, mobile and product experiences that are accessible to people of all abilities.
Upon merging, the new company will be headquartered in Arlington as a hybrid entity, the name of which has yet to be disclosed. Springer will serve as the CEO and eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s current CEO Mark Steele will be the organization’s president.
“Tim Springer and the Level Access team are pioneers of digital accessibility on whose shoulders the industry stands, champions of the accessibility community for over two decades,” Steele said in a statement. “Their deep bench and unparalleled support for top accessibility experts is well known and admired throughout our market. Leading enterprises are incorporating digital accessibility as part of their governance, risk and compliance capabilities in the pursuit of principled performance. In an advancing environmental, social and governance era, this merger would expand our presence and enable new solutions.”