Web accessibility is the idea of making websites easily accessed by all types of people including those with certain disabilities, different languages, or lack of access to certain technology. The notion is derived from the fact that all people should be given equal opportunities to access websites regardless of their limitations. It is important for you to consider that a certain percentage of your site’s visitors will be in this category. When websites are properly designed, developed, and edited, your web accessibility will increase because all people will be able to use, function, and navigate through your site with ease. In my opinion, no matter what stage you are in the website process, every step of the way, you should consider making your website more user-friendly.
Why Web Accessibility is Important
Many designers and developers wonder, “Why should I worry about making my site more accessible?” Well as you will see below, there is a multitude of reasons, which should be considered when you design or develop your next site.
Its the Way of the Web
The web was made for the purpose of getting out information to the world, it is not called the World Wide Web for no good reason. It is called the World Wide Web because its purpose is to be as inclusive as possible, thus it is not aiming at a particular group, but rather provides a place where people can produce information for the world to view. Therefore, you should be accessible on your website because it is the right thing to do, and it follows the principles of the web as a place to provide information to anyone who wants to seek it.
Your Audience is Important
Remember that your audience is the most important part of the design equation. If your audience is not able to understand, view, access, or use your site, then all your work for making your site is pointless. Remember, your audience is a vast group of people ranging from young to old, to educated to uneducated, to technologically advanced to first-time computer users. In addition, it has been estimated that 25% of the world’s population has some sort of disability, so it is very likely that your audience will need a little extra help with using your website.
Hand in hand with accessibility is usability. It is evident that a site must have both in order to be a successfully functional site; however, you cannot achieve usability without first achieving accessibility. When a web page is more accessible to ALL people, including those with disabilities, different languages, or lack of access to certain technology, those people will have a great likelihood of using your site. In the past few years, the web has evolved into a more complex and difficult world, but I think the new web trends of simplicity give rise to a greater increase of successful accessibility and usability for web viewers.
Improves your Knowledge and Ability
One thing that is for sure in the world of web design and development, is that the field is constantly changing and improving. As a web designer or developer, it is important to stay informed as to the newest best practices in the area. One way to achieve that is to try to be more accessible when making your pages. By doing so, I promise you will improve your ability and become a more capable designer or developer in the process.
Increases Web Conversion
Site conversion is the number of people who go to your site and actually return, end up buying something, or use your site. With all websites, the goal is to increase viewers, and with some sites, you want viewers to stay for an extended period of time, purchase items, select your business, and ultimately return to your site in the future, become a regular user, or even recommend it to others. If your site is easily accessible to the viewers, it can considerably affect the overall bounce rate of people coming to and staying on your page, and it can greatly increase the likelihood of the visitor staying longer and returning in the future.
Most Importantly, It’s the Law
Web accessibility is under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if your website’s company or the client itself has its primary presence in the United States. The ADA legislation was written in order to provide equality in public services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and employment. Many cases have been brought regarding whether the internet fits within this category, but the most famous is Robert Gumson v. Southwest Airlines, which is an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case, which involved Robert Gumson, a blind man that was unable to purchase tickets on SouthWest’s web page because it was not compatible with his screen reader. The court averred that the Internet was not included in public accommodations.
However, do not let this case fool you. It is not law for the entire United States, and this does not mean that numerous cases regarding the ADA and websites are not filed across the United States each year, because they are. In addition, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that any websites contracting with the United States Federal Government be accessible. Therefore, in my opinion, the law is strongly in favor of accessibility, but even if you do not agree with the law, I believe I have provided five other strong reasons as to why be accessible!