What is Web Accessibility?
Web Accessibility is about designing the web so that everyone can use it. The web is a resource that is used across all aspects of life. Education, employment, government, health care, the list goes on.
The United Nations Convention define the web as a basic human right, which is understandable. The right to work, the right to access to education, the right to participate in culture; all connected and obtainable through the web. An integral part of society and daily life. If a user is denied access to the web, surely their access is limited to the fore-mentioned.
However, in a broader perspective web accessibility benefits all users. For example, one of the key principles in accessibility is to meet certain users needs and situations. This could range from a physical or mental disability, to having a slow internet connection. Web Accessibility is about being fully inclusive of each and every user.
So why is the article called ‘The Inclusive Web’, not ‘The Accessible Web’? Because that’s exactly what it should be. Your site should not be designed, and then accessibility factored in afterwards – the whole approach should be a unified, considered, and inclusive of everyone.
Why Should Businesses Care About Web Accessibility?
It’s a fair question. At the end of the day businesses (at least most of them) are in it for the profit. If making their site accessible costs money, with no obvious return, surely it isn’t worth it?
People with disabilities are a large market segment
19% of adults working in the UK age are disabled. That is almost 1 out of 5 people that may be in a situation where they are unable to view, or navigate a website not built with accessibility in mind. If there is a perception that an organisation doesn’t support the disabled, the fallout can be disastrous. I never thought I would mention her in a blog post, but a perfect example is Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics website being sued for not being accessible – not a good look. Not only that, having a fully inclusive website open the doors to a much larger market. An almost 20% larger market.
Every business has customers with accessibility needs. The thought that a business doesn’t is categorically false. Unfortunately, there are no statistics to see which of user are disabled, so a business is unable to see how many of its customers are being turning away.
Search Engine Optimisation
It goes without saying, fully accessible websites have better search rankings.
When designed accessibly, the site is more user friendly for all users. The font is larger, which makes it easier to read. How many times have you been on a website with size 12 font, in a terrible type face. I tend to read half a sentence and leave. It is just too much work! Not only that but the messaging is simpler, once again, making the site easier to digest. Already the time spent on the page has increased and reduced the bounce rate.
Images have fully thought out alt tags, and all elements within the site are properly labelled. This means that suddenly Google (or whomever) has so much more content to get hold of and index.
Key word ranking (if done properly) increases. Why? Because 19% more people can use the site! This is a big thing!
On top of all of this remember, Google doesn’t have eyeballs! The easier a site is to screen read, the better the businesses SEO score will be.
Ahead of the Curve
Currently, less than 30% of the websites on the internet are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Now although not a UK act, the requirements exist. Users with accessibility needs use the internet in the UK. This lack of uptake means there is a high chance a business’s competitors are not inclusive. By ensuring their website is compliant, this provides a real opportunity to increase thei market share and have a better competitive edge!
In America companies are facing an alarming number of lawsuits for websites and mobile applications that are not accessible. The belief is that the ADA should apply to website, and that they should be accessible across all devices. Currently these lawsuits are only happening in the States, but I can believe that this mindset will cross the pond.
So why is it that so many large businesses, both in B2B and B2C are not fully accessible?
This stems from a lack of understanding and availability of information on the subject. There are no statistics on what percentage of users visiting a business’s website are disabled, which may make it tough to justify the extra expenditure. It may also be that agencies that businesses use for web development are unaware of the benefit of an inclusive website, so do not provide it as a service.
However, the facts on SEO and related analytics are not so easy to ignore – if a business has an existing digital marketing strategy, accessibility should surely be integrated to achieve the best results.