Life is definitely not easy for small business owners today. Massive international corporations like Amazon and Walmart are swallowing small businesses whole. Markets are changing constantly, forcing you to be constantly on your toes; and you’re operating with a small staff and a low budget.
On top of that, SMBs now have to overcome the challenge of web accessibility.
Web accessibility is becoming a more public issue today, thanks partly to disability activists who have begun sending lawyer demand letters to businesses with non-accessible sites, and partly to some headline cases like the recent Supreme Court ruling against Domino’s Pizza.
Every small business owner understands that it’s vital to have a website in today’s digital world, but the budget to manage it is small. You might hire a freelance web designer to build and launch it for you, or perhaps there’s someone within your business with basic web skills who can create it on a DIY website builder platform like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress.
And now, laws all over the world state any website has no be accessible, and if not – it’s at risk of a lawsuit.
Web accessibility is a bridge too far for SMBs
There’s no one on hand who is familiar with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, which are widely accepted as the fundamentals of web accessibility. Web accessibility can require myriads of changes and adjustments, including:
- Compatibility with screen readers
- Keyboard navigation
- Simplifying language
- Stopping animations
- Adjusting the text size, spacing, colors, contrast ratio, and font
Most SMB owners want their website to be fully accessible to every user, not just because they want to avoid a lawsuit and increase sales from consumers with disabilities, but also because they believe that the internet should be open to all. But they are put off by the enormity of the task before them.
Most of them aren’t tech wizards and don’t know how to adjust the source code of their site. The website was probably made using plugins on drag-and-drop platform, so it makes sense to look for a plugin that can fix web accessibility too.
Does Userway save the day?
Userway is a popular plugin that promises to fix web accessibility. Its pricing is competitive: if you use the WordPress plugin, it’s totally free, and plans begin at $49/month for a built-in widget for a small website. It’s easy to set up and is compatible with most popular website platforms, including WordPress and Wix. But the real question is whether it lives up to its promises of making your website accessible.
Unfortunately, the answer is not really.
UX and usability
Let’s begin with the positive. Userway does a fairly good job of addressing usability and UX issues. The widget allows the user to adjust the contrast and colors, change fonts, make the cursor and text bigger, highlight links, and render the page in grayscale, although if you enlarge the text too much, though, it can get cut off by the fixed frames on the page.
So far, so good, but this makes up only around 20% of web accessibility issues. The far more serious 80% concern keyboard navigability and support for blind users, and this is where Userway loses its way.
There is an option to switch to keyboard-only navigation, but you wouldn’t be able to fully use a Userway-supported site with nothing but a keyboard. The main effect of the Keyboard Nav button is to create thick red lines that show focus as the user moves around a site, but it doesn’t go far enough. Userway doesn’t successfully shift focus into and out of popups and forms, or enable you to navigate dropdown menus.
Support for screen readers
For blind internet users, it is vital that websites support the software that their screen readers use. There’s simply no other way for them to navigate the internet successfully. Jaws and NVDA screen readers, which are the most popular and widely-used, require ARIA attributes, image alt texts, form labels, tags, and other code elements in order to decipher what appears on the screen.
Userway doesn’t add any of these, although it claims to support screen readers. Instead, it offers a tool that reads the text of the page all the way through from the top down, which conflicts with any screen reader that a blind user might use.
Userway also fields its own built-in screen reader which supports neither Jaws nor NVDA, so blind users can’t run it through their own operating system. The Userway screen reader is extremely basic, without many customization options, making it an ineffective alternative to blind users own screen readers.
Animations and flashing gifs can be extremely dangerous for people with photo-sensitive epilepsy, since they can trigger seizures. Userway isn’t able to detect and prevent these kinds of animations from showing up on the screen.
Help for users with cognitive difficulties
Finally, Userway trips up yet again when it comes to simplifying the language and structure of a website for users with cognitive difficulties. High-level jargon, complicated sentences, and confusing headings and hierarchies make it difficult for elderly people with cognitive decline and others with cognitive difficulties to find their way around a site.
Payment processes, forms, and instructions can be hard to follow unless they are written clearly, and industry-specific wording can confuse many people. Userway has no solution for these issues.
Userway doesn’t live up to its potential
Userway is easy to use and works well in dealing with some common accessibility issues, but it doesn’t go far enough. The vast majority of accessibility lawsuits come from blind users and those with motor difficulties, and Userway does very little to make websites fully accessible to these groups.
A website that relies solely on Userway doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 requirements and is still vulnerable to lawsuits. While Userway provides useful tools towards web accessibility, it doesn’t take you all the way.