Why is web accessibility so important?

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Creating a robust, attractive and easy to navigate website in today’s business world is vital. Yet, few organizations really prioritize their web design and content.

You’re doing your business a disservice if you haven’t added web accessibility features for disabled access.

Fortunately, you can add a new level of website accessibility for people who need and want it once you understand the different strategies and options available. Therefore, it’s important for brands to consider web accessibility, from the vital role it can play in helping your target audience to the many ways you can make your website more accessible to everyone.

Defining web accessibility

The WC3 Web Accessibility Initiative defines web accessibility as the implementation of various tools and technologies that make a website more usable for people with disabilities. This disabled access levels the playing field by giving everyone fair access to the same online services, products and features.

However, the term “disability” covers more ground than you might think in this app. While it applies to people with permanent disabilities, it can also apply to those with temporary disabilities. Others may only face situational handicaps, such as a slow internet connection or outdated hardware. Website accessibility options can help all of these people get the most out of their online interactions with your organization.

Benefits of Web Accessibility for Disabled (and Non-Disabled) Site Visitors

By offsetting specific physical challenges, web accessibility can make online browsing much more productive and less frustrating for website visitors with disabilities. From audio descriptions of text and images to font size and cursor enhancements, accessible websites can help people absorb your web content and navigate your site more easily. Additionally, websites that respond to voice commands can provide smooth navigation and usability for visitors whose injuries or musculoskeletal conditions might make it impossible to use regular devices.

Web accessibility can also benefit people who do not have a disability in the traditional sense. For example, someone struggling with chronic digital eye strain may appreciate the ability to increase the size of fonts and cursors, giving their tired eyes a welcome break. Some computer users prefer the hands-free convenience of text-to-speech or audio commands when exploring websites. Therefore, improvements to your website’s accessibility can help you retain a wider audience of potential buyers with and without disabilities.

Web Accessibility Guidelines and Compliance Standards

Web accessibility doesn’t just make sense for any business with an online presence; for many companies, it is also a legal obligation. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities while requiring businesses to modify their facilities and resources accordingly. If your business has 15 or more employees working at least 20 weeks per calendar year, or if it offers housing to the general public, you must follow ADA policies. The current version of the ADA includes websites and other digital technologies in its settings.

While the ADA enforces website accessibility, WC3’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outlines the forms that accessibility should take. The latest version, WCAG 2.2, contains a detailed list of do’s and don’ts in various categories, from audio and video accessibility improvements to finer points of peripheral response and screen synchronization. For example, one rule states that most text should maintain a 4.5 to one contrast ratio to address visual impairments. Another prohibits web pages or images that flash more than three times per second to protect people with seizure disorders.

Similarly, in the UK, your website or mobile application must meet the requirements of the Public Sector Bodies (Website and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, which builds on the Equality Act 2010. It indicates that your website or mobile application will comply with the new legal requirements if you:

  1. Meet the WCAG 2.1 AA international accessibility standard (although there may be valid legal reasons for not meeting accessibility standards)

  2. Publish an accessibility statement that explains how accessible your website or mobile app is

Web accessibility tools and options

You can use a wide range of web accessibility tools and options to make your website easier to view and use for people with disabilities. The following common examples can help you develop your web accessibility strategy:

  • “Dark mode” or other high contrast elements can make it easier to distinguish between images and text

  • Enlarged text makes it easier to read for people with visual impairments

  • Wise color choices can avoid problems for color-blind viewers

  • Descriptive alt text labels provide detailed verbal descriptions for people with visual impairments

  • Subtitles make video content usable for the hearing impaired

  • Audio descriptions of video content allow people who are blind to follow the action

  • Multiple input device options help people with limited hand use

  • Simple, easy-to-follow content can help people with cognitive or learning disabilities

  • Consistent layout choices can make links, icons, and control elements easier to find and use

  • Headings and sub-headings marked up with appropriate HTML code (instead of just relying on bold or larger font sizes to differentiate themselves from body text) allow visually impaired users to follow more easily the structure of the site

Now is the time for you to take the necessary steps to ensure that your website is more widely accessible and meets national and global standards. A web development company with the appropriate web accessibility skills and experience can make helpful recommendations, adding recommended accessibility options to your organization’s website for you.

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