Why accessibility is important to you

Accessibility is becoming increasingly critical to the Internet experience. Is your site accessible to people with disabilities? Is it compatible with browsers other than Internet Explorer?

Continue reading to discover how accessibility can benefit you, as well as your visitors.

What is accessibility?

It is a term that is more associated with architectural thought, rather than Web Site Design. There is a legislation, which determines the minimum standards for new buildings.

As a result, new buildings today often have wheelchair ramps, accessible lifts and disability parking spaces, allowing anyone with disabilities to gain access to a building, use the provided services, buy the products, and talk with the people inside.

With web sites, the term traditionally refers to the development of sites that are accessible to "all" users who may want to access them.

In other words, "Universal Web Sites."

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director and inventor of the World Wide Web, defines it as access by everyone, regardless of disability.

Even though the World Wide Web is continuously growing, many users:

  • - use speech browsers or eyes busy/hands busy, as people in cars;
    - don't have the latest graphical browsers and plug-ins;
    - surf with slow modems, or reside in rural or remote areas with limited access to the Internet;
    - browse without graphics, using text-only browsers or subscribe to non-graphic services;
    - access in noisy, high- or low-light environments;

    There are also many users with disabilities as;

Visual - blind, low vision, color blind;
Auditory - deaf, hard of hearing;
Motor/physical - paraplegic;
Cognitive/learning - dyslexic, learning disabled.
Accessibility increases benefits for both parties: the User and the Web site Provider.

Users benefits from accessibility

Every user, regardless of physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities, constraints and/or technological barriers can:

- access the information;
- use the services;
- buy the products;
- talk to the people associated with each Web site.

In other words, satisfied users may become loyal users, continue using the web site, and even recommend to others.

Providers benefits from accessibility

As a provider, you may benefit from accessibility in many ways:

- Increase audience;
- Improve maintainability and efficiency;
- Improve and regain reputation;
- Satisfy existing and future legal requirements;
And much more.

Auxiliary benefits of accessible web design

According to the World Wide Web Accessibility Initiative, providers have the following benefits:

1. Increase Market Share and Audience Reach

- Improve usability for non-disabled and disabled visitors;
- Support for Low Literacy Levels;
- Improve Search Engine listings and Resource Discovery;
- Support for the Semantic Web;
- Re-purpose content for multiple formats or devices;
- Increase support for Internationalization;
- Assisting access for low-bandwidth users.

2. Improve Efficiency

- Reduce site maintenance;
- Site Search Engine Improvements;
- Re-purposing Content;
- Address server-load;
- Address server-bandwidth.

3. Demonstrate Social Responsibility

4. Reduce Legal Liability

Here you can read the whole draft, about the auxiliary benefits of accessible web design.

Accessibility is critical for a web site's success

This narrow focus is at the expense of a much larger segment of society with milder impairments, such as partial sight, poor hearing, and poor language skills.

The needs of this larger group can be more easily accommodated with simple and inexpensive design tips such as re-sizable text, large tactile buttons, and clear, easy-to-follow instructions.

We should try to look at things from the point of view of people who have disabilities.

For example, in the UK alone, there are 8.5 million people who are classified as having some sort of disability. That's a big percentage to exclude from the web; from a moral viewpoint, it is surely wrong, but from a commercial viewpoint, it is disastrous.

When designing web pages, try putting them through a text reader, like the ones used by those with visual impairment.

You will soon realize how difficult it can be for a user who cannot see that a new window has opened - hence the need to overtly tell users that a new window has indeed opened.

Apart from the moral and commercial considerations, there is also the legal. The United Kingdom enforces the Disability Discrimination Act, which requires all web sites to show that they have taken steps to enable access.

With a little bit of thought, accessibility is relatively easy to implement. It does not require you to do away with Java Script, Flash or other Multimedia features, just as long as you provide an alternative, so your visitors have a choice.