Web accessibility is not just a buzzword, it’s a necessity. It’s not only a legal requirement in some countries, but it also increases user satisfaction, expands market reach and enhances brand recognition.
The easiest way to comply with web accessibility guidelines is by making them a part of the initial build. It’s much harder to retrofit accessibility solutions after the fact.
Accessibility is a Human Right
As we celebrate International Human Rights Day on December 10, it’s important to remember that web accessibility is a human right. Accessibility provides a fundamental level of equity for people with disabilities who want to use the internet and interact with websites and apps.
For businesses, embracing web accessibility is also good business sense. It’s an investment that will pay off for your company by helping you reach a new, more diverse audience. Plus, many of the same techniques that improve web accessibility also make for better SEO. So, by implementing accessibility best practices, your site will rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), expanding your audience reach and potentially driving more traffic to your website.
Accessibility is often seen as a separate consideration from the design of a website, but it’s really a form of customer-centered design. By designing with accessibility in mind from the beginning of a project, you can save yourself time and money by making it easy for your customers to navigate and use your site. This is true for all types of users, not just those with disabilities. In fact, everyone benefits from the same features that make a website accessible: things like planning for slow cell service or making buttons big enough to hit on a mobile device.
Another benefit of incorporating accessibility into your design process is that it will help you create content that is easier for all of your customers to read and understand. For example, if you include descriptive alt text for all images on your site, it will help users who rely on screen readers to perceive your image. This will enhance your brand’s credibility by showing that you care about your customers and their experience with your business.
While it may seem that meeting a standard for web accessibility is an impossible goal, there are actually very few laws or regulations regarding this matter, unless you run a government website, in which case you must abide by Section 508 guidelines. That said, the vast majority of businesses do not meet any kind of standard for web accessibility, and that’s a shame because there is no reason that shouldn’t change.
It’s a Competitive Advantage
Whether you are an agency looking to expand your client portfolio or you’re a business seeking competitive advantages, offering accessibility via a WordPress website design service is a way to differentiate yourself. Adding web accessibility to your list of services shows potential clients that you’re an invaluable resource well-versed in digital marketing best practices including inclusivity and DE&I. It also mitigates legal risk, amplifies SEO efforts, and can help you capture a market segment that is often overlooked.
As we all know, the Web is an increasingly important resource in education, employment, government, commerce, and health care. It is critical that it be accessible to all people, including those with disabilities, and that the information and functionality of the Web is equally as available on mobile devices as it is on traditional computers.
To this end, WCAG includes requirements for a number of different categories and levels of accessibility, ranging from “A” to AAA.” The highest level is “AAA,” which requires that content be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
For example, WCAG Success Criterion 2.1.1 states that pages should be keyboard-accessible (meaning that users can navigate the site without using a mouse). Similarly, the BBC News website is designed so that users who access it via keyboard can cycle through all of the page elements by pressing tab, with no need to switch between a fullscreen keyboard and a virtual one-handed keyboard.
While these requirements may seem daunting, the good news is that there are a variety of tools and resources that can make it easier to achieve them. These tools include accessibility checking apps, automated testing platforms, and professional consulting firms. As a result, making your website more accessible is an investment that will pay off in many ways, for everyone.
If you’re in the financial sector, for example, then your customers are probably individuals with limited mobility who rely on the Internet to conduct their business. If your website is not optimised for these people, they are likely to make their purchases elsewhere—and to spread the word about their negative experience with your company. Moreover, your competitors are likely to be more accessible and user-friendly.
It’s an Investment
If you look at the bigger picture, embracing accessibility is a smart business strategy that provides a significant return on investment. For one, it helps you tap into a whole new market segment that you might not have previously considered as a customer base – people with disabilities have a combined spending power of trillions and are often loyal to businesses that make an effort to meet their needs.
Aside from the financial benefits, accessible web design has a number of other positive effects that help everyone, including those without disabilities. For example, it is often easier for older visitors to navigate websites that are designed with accessibility in mind compared to those that are not. Adding elements like clear and easy-to-read fonts, sufficient color contrast, keyboard accessibility and intuitive navigation can make sites more user-friendly for all users.
Additionally, ensuring that your site is accessible has the potential to improve search engine optimization (SEO), which can lead to more traffic and revenue. In fact, Google has stated that websites with good accessibility are more likely to rank higher in search results than those that are not.
While incorporating accessibility is no doubt beneficial, it can be challenging to do effectively. As such, it’s important to include accessibility in the planning stages of a project rather than as an afterthought. This includes creating content that is easily understandable and ensuring that any images or videos include captions or transcripts for deaf or hard-of-hearing visitors.
It is also a best practice to label all input fields, buttons and links to indicate their purpose. The use of labels is important because it allows someone using a screen reader to quickly find what they’re looking for on the page without having to listen to all of the text being read or manually tab through the headings at the top of the page. Also, remember to add skip links for any lengthy paragraphs of text or tables that are difficult to scroll through with a mouse or trackpad. This will help people who are visually impaired or have limited mobility.
It’s a Marketing Tool
While some businesses focus on accessibility as a legal obligation or because they understand the value of a diverse user base, others see it as an opportunity to stand out from the competition and gain a competitive advantage. Prioritizing accessibility creates a positive reputation for your business and builds brand loyalty, even among customers without disabilities. People return to websites and apps that are easy to use and have features that make their lives easier. They also share those positive experiences with their friends and families, who are likely to be potential customers.
It’s important to remember that not everyone who has a disability is permanently disabled. Many disabilities are temporary or situational. Someone recovering from cataract surgery may benefit from easily readable colors on your website. Someone who is in a noisy place and can’t hear a video on your site will appreciate closed captions. And, of course, there are millions of people whose disabilities are invisible—they aren’t using assistive technologies but who could benefit from simple modifications such as larger default fonts and text-to-speech functionality.
Websites can be challenging for all users. However, designing for accessibility ensures that all users can find and navigate content on your website. This includes ensuring that all pages are accessible by keyboard (or other AT), that navigation is clearly marked, and that all content is structured with headings to provide context for the page.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that websites be fully compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Luckily, most of the necessary changes are relatively straightforward to implement and can have a huge impact on users.
For example, simply nesting headers by rank rather than by visual appearance makes a big difference to users who rely on screen readers or other AT. It’s also a good idea to use sans serif fonts and avoid decorative markings in your headers, as they can be difficult for users with low vision or color blindness to distinguish.
Considering how much time, effort, and money are spent on creating and maintaining websites today, investing in accessibility is a smart move. It’s a way to maximize the reach and impact of your website, while also showing your visitors that you care about them.