The Importance of an accessible website

  • Friday, 7th August, 2020
  • 13:16pm

Is your website usable by people with mobility, cognitive or perceptual challenges?

Before you say "yes, of course", just think on this a minute: the whole point of having a website is to disemminate information. It might be your business hours, your menus, your knitting patterns - whatever, it could be anything, but you get the point:

a website is only useful if people can access it, perceive it, understand it and interact with it.

The World Wide Web is designed to work for all people, whatever their age, language, location, or ability and websites should be designed and developed with all users in mind. A site that meets these requirements will be usable to people with a different visual perception (such as colour blindness or dyslexia), movement (due to a stroke), hearing, and cognitive ability (such as autism).

Well, what is website accessibility? 

Website accessibility (also sometimes termed inclusive design or universal design) basically means that website users (your customers, perhaps) can navigate, perceive, understand and interact with the website effectively. It is how well a website is available, viewable, understandable and usable to as many people as possible. Though accessibility is commonly used to describe how people with disabilities can access the web, in fact it covers more than this. A "disability" can be permanent, such as autism; semi-permanent, say, a broken arm or situational, like a mother carrying her 6 month old baby and not being able to use the touchscreen on her phone.

Consider the following made-up but all-to-common scenario:

Jason is blind. Now you might think that because websites are primarily sight-based then Jason probably doesn't use the internet. Well, if your website doesn't take Jason's blindness into account then he certainly won't be visiting your website, will he? He'll go to a competitor's website which does. You see, technology called screen readers is available for blind users and those with poor vision to use and interact with websites.

These bits of software read out the content of the web page so users can listen to it rather than read it. Great eh? Well, yes, IF (it's a big if) the web page is designed and built to allow screen readers to work properly. Most websites aren't, sadly. You know what this says to Jason? It says:

"We don't care about you or your disability." It says "We don't want your business, your money is no good to us."

I don't know about you, but, I reckon that's a horrible attitude to have, don't you think? Not only that, it's certainly a bad business decision.

Another Example

Brenda has cerebral palsy. She's a bright lady who likes, among other things, to keep up to date with her wide circle of contacts on social media. Lately she's been looking for someone to modify her home as getting around with cerebral palsy can be challenging. There are  several local builders who have excellent reviews from her friends, but she ends up buying from a well-known national company instead. Why? Because none of the local companies have websites which take into account her motion difficulties.

Accessibility is an essential feature of website design and development for organisations and developers that want to create high-quality content, websites, and tools. Unfortunately, it isn't always taught in coding schools, and your average freelancer finds it too hard to implement. Not us, obviously ;)

In the UK, around 11 million people have a permanent disability. That's a heck of a lot of people. A lot of potential customers.

 

The importance of website accessibility

By improving your website with accessibility features, the client experience will be smoother and more pleasant for everyone who visits your site. Accommodating everyone's desires is important to a wide-ranging experience for every user. An accessible website will offer the ability to engage with web material equally as much as other users.

The website provides the possibility of exceptional access to information and interaction for many people with disabilities. Website accessibility depends on numerous components working together, including web browsers and other user agents, and authoring tools. The website accessibility initiative develops technical guidelines, techniques, supporting resources that describe accessibility solutions.  

WCAG 2.0 is an international standard for website accessibility. This standard will make the site accessible to a broad range of people with disabilities, including low vision, deafness, learning disabilities, blindness, cognitive limitations, and combinations of these. It covers a broad range of recommendations for making the website more accessible.

The internet is a valuable resource in so many aspects of modern life, such as employment, commerce, health care, recreation, education, and more. Your website must be accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with all abilities. Your site is the first impression a potential customer can have of your services. For customers with disabilities, the internet may be the first contact they have with your services. Do you want their first impression to be a good one? Or don't you care?

Conclusion

If you're smart enough to want to get ahead of your competitors and/or you just want to do the right thing, then give us a call on 01969 662 871 to discuss the best way forward for your website.

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