If your business has a website, it should be accessible to disabled users. There are ethical and commercial justifications for this, but there is also a legal reason: if your website does not meet certain accessibility standards, then you could be sued for discrimination because The Disability Discrimination Act in the UK includes blind and disabled access to the internet.
Accessibility on the web means making your content available to users with different skills and devices.
Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about web accessibility.
1. Web accessibility places restrictions on design
Accessibility has nothing to do with how visually attractive or interesting a website is. It is possible to create a beautiful, media-rich, interactive, engaging and accessible websites.
Features such as forms, buttons, navigation and tabs can all be designed and built to be accessible.
Web design isn’t just about visual aesthetics, it is about designing and developing for as many people as possible.
2. Web accessibility is expensive and time consuming
The process for creating an accessible website is no different from creating a website that is not. The same languages and technologies are used, but with in accordance with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
Creating an accessible website is also not a particularly expensive or time-consuming process, especially if you do things the right way from the beginning.
3. Web accessibility only benefits a small percentage of users
Some business owners may say that people with disabilities don’t use their website so they don’t have to make an effort but with 1 in 5 (20%) of us having a disability (figures from The Papworth Trust) and 8.5% of these having a disability which affects their ability to use a computer and 1 in 22 (4.5%) of us being colour blind (figures from http://www.colourblindawareness.org), it is not an insignificant number.
And what about those of use who have a temporary disability like a broken wrist, which means we can’t use a mouse? And what about as we get older and find it increasingly harder to browse websites with large blocks of small text and poor contrasting colours?
Having a clear layout, consistent navigation and meaningful link names doesn’t just benefit people with cognitive disabilities, it actually benefits everyone because it makes your website easier to use.While accessibility focuses on people with disabilities, accessibility benefits everybody. Click To Tweet
When designers build digital experiences with accessibility in mind, all of us benefit. For example, an interface that can be tabbed through quickly and logically isn’t just helpful for people who have trouble operating a mouse – it’s also the fastest and easiest way for anyone to navigate most sites.
Creating text captions for video and audio files, done mainly with deaf people in mind, can be very useful for people who don’t have speakers or would like to access the content without disturbing the people around them.
4. Web accessibility is optional
Accessibility of a website is actually required by law. The Equality Act 2010, which came into force in October 2010, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales, makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. The Act applies to anyone providing a service; public, private and voluntary sectors. The Code of Practice: Rights of Access – Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises document published by the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission to accompany the Act does in fact refer explicitly to websites as one of the “services to the public” which should be considered covered by the Act.
In effect, if someone with a disability can’t access the information on a website, then it could be seen as discrimination, so for example it may be seen as unlawful to have links that are not accessible to a screen reader or use colour contrast that make the website inaccessible to a partially sighted service user.
Don’t think it won’t happen – many companies, including Netflix and Disney have been successfully sued for having inaccessible websites.
5. Web accessibility doesn’t have any other benefits
Web accessibility isn’t just something you have to do, it has many additional benefits which benefit your business. Some of these benefits are listed here:
– Increases site visibility with Search Engines
Unlike accessibility, SEO is something companies don’t usually hesitate to spend money on. And yet many accessibility guidelines are the same as SEO techniques, for example valid HTML, clear link names, using text rather than images of text, providing text alternatives for images, etc. This means that incorporating accessibility will at the same time help to improve websites’ search engines ranking.
– Increases site traffic and usage
With improved SEO comes an increase in visitors to the website and if the website is easy for them to use then they will spend more time on it, which will, in turn, boost SEO.
– Increased usability
Accessibility increases usability of a website, and in effect improves the user experience. This is because accessibility guidelines are similar to usability guidelines, including using a clear and consistent design, clear navigation, dividing blocks of information into logical sections and good colour contrast. Increased usability makes users more likely to return to the website.
Creating a website that welcomes everyone, regardless of how they access your site, is a good thing for your business.
Web accessibility is not just about disabled users being able to access your website – it’s about everyone being able to access your website, including people using mobile devices or those with slow internet speeds.
If you would like to talk to us about making your website accessible then please contact us.