Make your website accessible

My brother Jared as a little boy wearing hearing aids in a halterYour website must be ADA compliant. Really!

I’ve been fighting for the ADA, the acronym for Americans with Disabilities Act years before it was passed into law. 

My little brother was born deaf and it was my job as the big sister to protect him, even as a little girl. At the time, there was no such thing as mainstream education requiring schools to place disabled kids in the classroom together with the able-bodied. You’ve heard the expression “He wears his heart on his sleeve?” Back then, being a deaf kid meant wearing ugly hearing aid transistor radios placed in a double halter outside your clothes – for everyone to see and point at. The hearing aid technology Jared wore is so ancient that not even Google can find the correct pictures from the seventies. As you can imagine, any kid different from others was a target to be bullied. I vividly remember as a scrawny 9-year-old kid in pigtails holding my fists in the air fending off middle school boys teasing my brother.

Fast forward years ahead to watch my brother successfully fight his own battles to earn his GED and narcotics anonymous medallion. He was the reason I left my beloved career as a marketer for The Toro Company to work for a hearing aid company. Sadly, he left this earth far too soon.

What the heck is WCAG 2.1?What is WCAG 2.1 also known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The ADA has helped change the physical world to ensure those with disabilities have safe and accessible environments.

Little did I know that the ADA was also working on the digital world too. I joined the Optum team in 2016 to assist with a transformative digital solution to help people live healthier lives. It was at Optum that I first heard the acronym “WCAG 2.1” pronounced “Way-Kag 2.1” also known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Gee, as a marketer, I should have known about this mandate. I was surrounded by amazing, wicked-smart people using rock-solid processes to ensure all of their websites were ADA compliant. It was the right thing to do because of course, big companies need to guarantee their websites can be accessed by all. Little did I know that the government considers websites “public accommodations” and even businesses with a single employee must have ADA compliant websites. It’s kind of embarrassing as a serial marketer, now CEO of a fractional CMO business, that I wasn’t aware of the legal requirements and didn’t even build my brand-new website to be compliant. Even more frightening, there are people trolling websites and slapping businesses with lawsuits. If your site doesn’t meet WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards, it could be fined up to $55,000 – $75,000 for a first violation and $150,000 for a second. Although this is extreme and unlikely to happen to solo entrepreneurs, the courts have ruled against businesses to ensure disabled people have the same digital access as able-bodied folks. Small businesses simply can’t afford the expense or hassle to fight lawsuits.

Help is on the way.

Not only is creating an ADA compliant website legally required, it might also help your business reputation by making it easier for everybody to use your website. I’m happy to help spread the word because I’ve worked with an amazing partner – Perc – that can help you get ADA compliant in 48 hours for as little as $3 a day. Don’t take my word for it, please check out their blog: are websites required to be ADA compliant? If this is intimidating, try this online checker to see where your website scores (red errors are bad!) and schedule a 30-minute consultation with them to help you get started. Mention this link:, and my company HPZ Marketing will donate 10% of your subscription to the Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (MRID).

Keeping marketing accountable.

I miss you brother. Thanks for letting me tell our story to help folks get their digital websites accessible for all.Big sister Jessica with little brother Jared.

Jessica Kelley is a seasoned leader with more than two decades of marketing and finance experience in B2B and B2C channels. She has worked extensively within healthcare, consumer, commercial, and software industries in diverse environments ranging in size from a $200 billion corporation to a startup firm. Her company, HPZ Marketing is an interim CMO and fractional CMO business and is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as a Women’s Business Enterprise and Women Owned Small Business (WOSB). They provide interim and fractional executive marketing services to help businesses achieve marketing ROI with executable strategy and a relentless focus on customer acquisition and retention. Learn more about hiring a fractional CMO for your business.