Is your website accessible?

Published on January 20th, 2019

Is having an accessible website good for your business?

Every business needs a website. If you have a company, chances are you want people to know about you. You want people to find you, to hire you, to buy from you, to work with you. In this day and age, the Internet is the first place people go to find information. Your website is, therefore, the primary place where people find out about you, your business, your plans and your accomplishments.

Not all websites are created equal

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, once said:

“The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

But what does this mean?

It means that websites should be accessible universally: to everyone and everywhere, no matter their disability or condition. But is that the case?

Not every website is universally accessible

Imagine a website only accessible with a mouse. The only way to click on buttons, the only way to open pages, is with a mouse. But what about people without one? Or people unable to physically operate a mouse? Or simply the increasing number of people who prefer to use only their keyboard?

What about a website without sufficient screen reader support or a poor color contrast? How are people with visual impairments, whether it is partial or complete blindness, or color vision deficiency, going to navigate through the content? Sooner or later, this website will lead to users’ frustration, dissatisfaction and, ultimately, less traffic.

Let the numbers speak

About 15% of the worldwide population has some form of disability. Excluding this group of people from accessing your site reduces your audience engagement and potentially your profit margin. Additionally, it is a legal requirement that all websites are universally accessible (UK: The Equality Act 2010, US: Section 508 (of The Rehabilitation Act, U.S.) and others). And yes, there have been cases where companies faced legal actions over their inaccessible websites.

However, when talking about accessibility, we are not talking about disabled people only.

What about older people? According to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of adults aged 75 years and over that use the Internet has increased from 52% in 2011 to 78% in 2017, closing the gap on younger age groups. In fact, women aged 75 and over had seen the most significant rise in Internet use, “up 169.0% from 2011”, as reported by the ONS.

Where is the money?

Now that we have established that more and more people with disabilities, as well as the ageing population, are going online, let’s also mention their considerable buying power!

Many people find it easier to do their shopping online, instead of going to the shops. Depending on your target audience, this may be a vast potential market for your business to tap into. Hence, making sure websites are accessible to this group of potential clients and customers will lead to better business opportunities.

Furthermore, making your website accessible will not only make it easier to use for people with disabilities, it will also make it better for everyone. In fact, there is something called the ‘curb cut effect’ in what is thought of as the universal design.

The magic of the curb cuts

Curb cuts were initially added to pavements to aid people in wheelchairs. However, curb cuts help more people than that. A person pushing a pushchair will find it much easier to get to the pavement. An older adult will find it easier — eliminating a step. A person with crutches will also find it more accessible.

Similarly, closed captioning, which was initially meant to benefit deaf people, helps all kinds of people! Just ask a non-native English speaker how they learned English! I bet many of them will confirm that subtitles were a great help.

The correlation between web accessibility and SEO

The accessible website also improves search engines optimizations. Better SEO leads to a higher ranking which, in turn, leads to more exposure and therefore more business. Improved usability of your website also offers visitors a better experience, which then leads to them spending more time on your website or returning more often.

The future is bright (and accessible)

But things are looking up. According to the ONS, the number of adults with a disability that has never used the Internet has decreased in 2016, down to 25% of users, as compared to 27.4% in 2015. According to this statistic, more and more people are going online.

The ball is in our court now — we need to make sure that our websites are accessible to everyone, with easy access to services and information.

I hope I convinced you that making your website accessible is a great business strategy. It makes sense. It may sound like a big hassle or yet another financial expense, but the benefits are immeasurable. So next time you think about updating your website, or you look for a new WordPress theme, make sure it is accessible.

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