Generally speaking, accessibility means that people with disabilities can access the same things as those without a disability. Whether it is a physical, cognitive, hearing or visual impairment, disabilities can make interacting with a website or mobile phone very difficult. If the user cannot navigate around your website to complete a purchase, you may be missing out on potential business.
Web accessibility allows people with disabilities to be able to understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the information on the web. It assists not only people with a disability, but also elderly people or those with limited motor skills, people in rural areas or developing countries with slower Internet connections, and people with colour blindness.
Accessible websites provide all functionality to be used either by a mouse or by a keyboard, allowing people with assisted technologies to be able to navigate the website via joysticks, screen readers, and speech input controls.
Ask yourself, is your website allowing EVERY user to accomplish the same thing?
If not, think about who your target audience is and what devices those users may be using to find you. Every person struggles with different things, and we are all different levels of users. Things as simple as the choice of colours on a website can have a major impact on users.
For instance, if you are writing a story about the safety of mushrooms and the only way that you distinguish which mushrooms are safe to eat and which ones are deadly to eat is by colouring them either red or green, then a person that is colourblind would not know which ones are deadly to eat.
It is important to make your website both technically accessible and user-friendly so that everyone has an equal opportunity to understand the content and be able to engage with your products and services. Be sure to keep in mind what challenges your users might be facing.
Does your site have enough colour contrast for the visually impaired or colour blind?
Is your site easily navigated via a keyboard for the mobile impaired?
And, can your site be read successfully via a screen reader?
These are all important questions to consider to make your website allow for better organic traffic, allow for better SEO results and reach more potential customers.
Accessibility is not just for people with disabilities
Have you ever wondered what the big fuss is about accessibility and if having an accessible website is really necessary? I am here to tell you that it is. You may think that the number of people with a disability requiring an accessible website is small, but the actual number of people who may benefit from an accessible site will probably surprise you.
There are over 11 million people with a disability in the UK. Disability is more likely to affect older adults over State Pension age. They account for 45% of the disabled in the UK compared to 16% of working-age adults and 6% children.
Who really benefits
Accessibility issues affect many more people than just those with an identified disability.
- Disabled population – users with vision, motor, auditory or cognitive disability; from mild to severe.
- Ageing population – users often need captioning on videos or larger font sizes to read the text.
- English is not the user’s primary language – users may need extended time to read a text and simpler content (preferably at a 9th-grade reading level).
- Cognitive disabilities/limitations, or anxiety issues – these users may need easy to read fonts, and well-organised text to help them stay focused. They also prefer well-defined instructions about what will happen next or what is expected.
- Limited/low vision or colour blindness – users may need to be able to zoom text or to have a high contrast between foreground and background colours in order to be able to read the text.
- Situational disabilities – this can range from users trying to view a cell phone or laptop screen in the sunshine to a user who is in a loud construction zone and unable to hear videos.
- Temporary disabilities – someone who suffers from a head, hearing or eye injury or who suffers from something like a broken arm, may temporarily need alternative ways to access your web information while they are recovering.
- Heavy stress or low concentration – users are sometimes under heavy stress and not able to concentrate on every detail of information your website provides. They benefit from sites that are easy to use and navigate.
You should want your website to allow as many users as possible to have equal access to your information. The number of people who will benefit from being able to use your website in an accessible way is only going to increase. People are now living longer and technology advancements are allowing websites to be found easier and on more devices for people of all ages. Make sure that you are as accessible to ALL of your users as you can be.