Even though our world is increasingly connected, not everyone has equal access to online resources. Persons living with disability may not be able to view, navigate, or understand your website. Due to many factors, website accessibility is an issue that continues to grow in importance with time.
Accessibility impacts both the user and site owners, such as businesses, organizations, and government entities. Although the ethical aspects of website accessibility are highly important, an accessible website also improves overall company or organization performance.
The main benefits to making a website accessible are:
- Ethical – It’s the right thing to do.
- Broader reach – Increases audience size.
- Legal – Avoids the risk of lawsuits.
- SEO – Boosts search engine ranking.
- Demographic – Aging population wants access.
- User experience – Better experience for all users.
- Mobile – Makes sites more device friendly.
- Innovate – Creates new paths to extend reach.
- Bottom Line – Improves business financial strength.
- Someone you know is disabled.
This article explores the reasoning behind the benefits of making your website accessible.
1. Website accessibility is an ethical issue
Imagine a sidewalk without a wheelchair ramp. This would mean, unless assisted, some people who use wheelchairs could never cross the street. Fortunately, accessibility to physical locations has been fully embraced by many countries. Still, it wasn’t always this way. Before ramps, handrails, and automatic doors existed, people with disabilities were often left out.
By the same token, many websites make it impossible for those with visual or physical disabilities to use their site. If your website intends to welcome everyone, then anyone – regardless of their motor or visual skills – should be allowed in. When you make your website accessible, you advocate for those would otherwise be excluded from digital resources.
2. Accessible websites have broader reach
Website success depends on visitors – and not only quantity, but also quality leads. The World Bank estimates that about 15% of the global population lives with disability. With the current world population approaching 8 billion people, this means nearly 1.2 billion are disabled. Does any brand want to lock out that many people from access to their goods, services, or information?
If a visually impaired person visits your site and finds it easy to navigate (descriptive headers, logical navigation, alt text for images, etc.), they are more likely to stick around. If not, you don’t stand a chance of getting their attention or business.
3. The law increasingly demands accessibility
Whether it’s the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) or legislation in other countries, governments are continuously modifying requirements for website accessibility. In many cases, the recommendations overlap, however, there is no international standard accepted by all countries.
In 2018, the number of federally-filed website accessibility cases in the US climbed to 2,285, up from 815 in 2017. In 2019, experts estimate that the number of cases could reach over 3,200. Some lawsuits could cost brands up to millions of dollars.
Without a doubt, legal liability will only increase the risk for non-compliant websites. Businesses and organizations that adopt a proactive accessibility strategy will avoid this risk.
4. Accessible websites have better SEO
Whether by chance or by design, methods that improve SEO also improve website accessibility. This works because search engines rely on text to crawl and evaluate websites. When the text is more organized and understandable, it’s more SEO friendly. It’s also more accessible to persons with disabilities.
For example, each of these practices improve both SEO and website accessibility:
- Adding image alt tags
- Using ordered and organized headings
- Implementing descriptive hyperlink text
- Adding captions to videos
- Creating readable, optimized URLs
- Avoiding interaction requiring mouse use
- Providing search, site map & table of contents
5. Demographics – aging populations need access
As the population in many countries ages, the rates of disability are also increasing according to the World Health Organization. For instance, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, and the risk of diabetes related vision loss increases with time. As more people with diabetes grow older, the number of people with blindness will also increase.
Beyond keeping your website accessible to as many people as possible, imagine if you – or a loved one – lost the ability to see and could no longer use online resources.
6. Accessible websites improve the user experience for all visitors
Many times web designers think of user experience (UX) in limited terms, that is, all users have the same capabilities. The reality is that user experience varies widely.
For example, about 8% of all men are color blind (a more accurate term is “color deficient”). So even if your site is accessible to blind persons, it might be confusing for color deficient individuals. Your site will offer them a better UX if it considers color deficiencies.
Also, even for people without any disability, a well organized site makes for ease of use and faster navigation.
7. Accessibility improves the mobile experience
There’s a lot of overlap with the traditional desktop and mobile devices when it comes to accessibility. In fact, the Web Accessibility Initiative states that there are no separate recommendations for mobile devices. However, they are developing mobile guidelines.
The same principles (readability, organization, etc.) still apply. When it’s easier to physically navigate a mobile site or app, the UX is better for everyone. For instance, some sites don’t adapt to mobile phone displays. This can make the text difficult to read, and linked text might be cramped making it hard to tap even for the non-disabled.
8. Accessibility spurs innovation
When website design respects accessibility issues, it inspires new avenues of innovation. For example, engineers and product managers begin to consider more effective ways to reach a wider audience.
Instead of thinking of accessibility as a hassle, it’s an entirely new group of opportunities you can capture by implementing the right solutions.
9. Accessible websites make businesses stronger financially
There are several reasons accessible websites improve the financial profile of a business, such as:
- Reduces risk of costly lawsuits
- Broadens overall target market size
- Drives innovation to reach new client base
A lot of erroneous stereotypes (shut-ins, non-working, etc.) are associated with disability, and this translates into losses for all parties. For companies, they fail to tap into a large population with significant buying power. For disabled persons, they get excluded from access to valuable goods and services.
When websites are made to be accessible, everybody wins.
10. Someone in your life is disabled
Disability is so common that it’s more than likely someone you know is affected. This means that someone close to you may struggle with online accessibility issues. Someday, that person could be you.
If we believe in a fair, inclusive society, then we should all be taking steps to make online resources accessible to everyone. It’s the right thing to do!
Make your website accessible. It benefits everyone! Contact Adally to learn more.