While I will agree that news and entertainment organizations must make efforts to be accessible to everyone, I'm of the opinion that e-commerce businesses should only be expected to cater to and optimize for their primary audiences.
Obviously, the major e-tailer department stores should be as accessible to as many groups as possible in order to increase their revenue potential, but for example, why in the world should full accessibility requirements for the blind be expected of an e-tailer selling car parts? Or how could we expect a music download site to be fully accessible to the deaf? Bottom line is that it should continue to be every merchant's right to make his or her website as accessible or inaccessible to any group(s) they see fit.
The Internet is our global community. Imposing new, and often multi-layered regulations on everyone in order to deal with the needs of the few are exactly what we need to avoid on the Intenet. That liberal/Utopian mindset costs far more than anyone is really willing to pay.
An interesting response but not an uncommon one. A lot of people ignore this subject area for whatever reason so thank you for taking the time to share your views.
From what I can make out, you are saying only larger businesses (news & entertainment organizations, major e-tailer department stores) should make their online services (i.e. websites) accessible. And that, it should be either exempted for small businesses (i.e. ecommerce business) or optional - up to them to decide.
I hope I have understood that correctly.
Okay, let's break this down into 4 parts.
Yes, there is a legal requirement. The ADA is currently being updated but there has been plenty of legal cases where businesses (both private* and public) have been taken to court for discriminating against persons with disabilities. So there's the risk factor here.
It shows the social and cultural responsibilities of businesses (think brand) and will open up more opportunities / partnerships with other inclusive and diverse organizations. This has been proven (can provide evidence). Also would you shop or do business with someone who openly discriminates against people with disabilities (or any vulnerable or minority social group?)
There are industry and international standards for web accessibility. Most businesses have strong audit and compliance measures. Using a retail example: Would you buy a iPhone charger from the 99 cent store regardless of it not passing any compliance (e.g. FCC, WEEE or CE mark) and could explode/catch fire?
Business / Financial
You mentioned that a major e-tailer should be as accessible to as many groups as possible in order to increase their revenue potential. Then why wouldn't a smaller e-tailer? Shouldn't they have the same business goals of obtaining profit? Not sure why this would be any different.
Anyway there are lots of business reasons why you should be accessible and not just for the one you think.
Accessibility improves SEO, usability, reduces costs, speed up site, opens up market penetration (20-25% US website users with a disability and spending power is $250 billion - note I do not have the latest stats for this for the last 2 years so needs updating).
So there is a strong business case for web accessibility.
To the other points in your reply.
- It's not new it's been around for years legislation certainly before 2000. Most are around the early to mid 90's depending on your location.
- Often multi-layered regulations? Not sure what you mean as it's quite straight forward as they have detailed documentation to help you. I don't think governments purposely throw out ambiguous laws just to trip you up.
- Needs of a few? I wouldn't call over 1 billion people (about 15% of the world population have some sort of disability) a few, would you?
Let me ask you this.
- What happens when you get older and your eyesight or hearing deteriorates? Stop using the internet all together?
- You have an accident and you have a temporary mobility so you can't use a mouse?
- The speakers on your computer breaks you can't watch YouTube?
- Your users have a low bandwidth connection so the disabling images speed up the site but missing valuable information in the process what do you do?
- What happens if your target audience has old technology (i.e. browsers) and can't access your site?
Accessibility is not just about disability. It's about everyone, it's about inclusion and standards. And it's not expensive to do, chances are you probably are but don't realize. There is such a negative and misunderstanding view of what accessibility is and what it can do.
You are right, the internet is a global community so we shouldn't be excluding users or groups.
It's almost the same mindset as security. Oh, we don't have to get it tested, secure and protect user data. It's only the big companies that get hacked. It's only the big companies because they are news worthy. Everyone else is what we call 'low hanging fruit', easy targets because there's no standards or QA involved.
Hope this helps.
* Netflix was one of the businesses. We now have closed caption as standard which you don't have to be deaf to enjoy. One example, learning more Spanish so reading and listening helps with that process.