Monday | September 6, 2021
Is it a Need or a want? The importance of website accessibility and why you should care.
Ok, I’m not sure if it is just me. But do you find it a little challenging to talk about web accessibility sometimes? Honestly, it can feel a little awkward talking about web accessibility. It feels like this enormous elephant in the room that everybody knows is there but pretends to ignore its existence. Or perhaps it is one of those topics that feel so unfamiliar to too many of us that you would rather not talk about it not to say something wrong? I get it – It used to feel that way for me.
But luckily enough, I’m super passionate about this topic, and it has been on my radar for a while. So, over the past 4 years, I have been learning about it frantically. So let me share what I have learned so far with you. Personally, I think one of the biggest mistakes you could make when discussing website accessibility is not talking about it, or worse, just plain ignore it.
Website accessibility often confuses beginners – and I’ve found one of the reasons behind this is that the documentation can be a little vague or difficult to understand from the get-go. As a result, I see CEOs, designers, and developers often running away from it. I firmly believe this is a huge missed opportunity to improve your own products and services.
I get it! It’s far too easy to overlook Accessibility when designing websites. Website accessibility is a topic that isn’t particularly sexy, primarily if you work within certain parts of the tech industry. This is undoubtedly one of those topics that might not be considered valuable at the workplace. So, you might be wondering – why exactly does it need to exist? Why should I worry about this?
Regardless, web accessibility is here to stay, and it will only get more important over the years. This is why I am sharing my thoughts with you about 6 reasons why you should care about Accessibility. After all, web accessibility makes the web a better place for all of us, not just an audience with disabilities.
1. Understanding Web Accessibility
In a nutshell, website accessibility is the idea that anybody should be allowed to use a website regardless of their physical or mental abilities. This concept focuses on giving a more personalized experience to everyone visiting the website that can suit their particular needs. Therefore, designing in a way that enables everyone to access your digital products is its primary goal.
Website accessibility aims to include people with – and without disabilities equally. It’s also known as inclusive design or user-centered design.
As a designer, web developer, or business owner – you should always start any project with Accessibility in mind. Making sure that your web content is usable for everyone will give back great returns on the investment.
But, how come only 10% of the internet is accessible if it is so important? Honestly, the web should work for everyone by default. But, unfortunately, more often than not, people overlook this with poor development practices or lack of awareness about the issue. Also, meeting deadlines and doing the bare minimum is increasingly common. Therefore, Accessibility is often not at the top of the list of priorities. Also, the current laws aren’t the most well-enforced, at least in the United States.
Understandably, being aware of accessibility limitations when you are not experiencing them yourself can be challenging for most. In that case, you could say it’s not your fault if you’ve never considered it. But, think of it this way – when people visit the library, it is ready and accessible for everyone to use, whenever. If you use a wheelchair, you wouldn’t be barred from the library because you can’t walk up the stairs.
This is why libraries are made easily accessible with ramps and elevators to allow visitors of all abilities to get equal access to its content. In the same way, web accessibility will enable people with mobility and cognitive limitations to have equal participation over the internet.
According to the W3C, less than 10% of the web is accessible – that means that for people with reading impairments, visual and hearing difficulties, or mobility limitations, the online world is a challenging place to navigate. So — if you’re spending thousands of dollars on your slick new website, shouldn’t your users be able to use it? Otherwise… What’s the point?
2. Temporary Disabilities Come with the Package
According to the CDC, almost everyone will have a temporary or permanent disability at some point – in the USA alone, 26% of all adults have some form of disability.
These temporary disabilities make up a vast portion of the reported limitations – from accidents to things like ALS, Bells’ Palsy, fractures, sprains, and so much more.
Getting on board with Accessibility is more important than ever. With your workforce changing, growing, and the people who need the content you put out ever-expanding – why would you want to reach the fewest amount of people possible? Every minute that goes by with leads slipping through your fingers is costing you money. Also, not making the most out of the visitors you already have is like leaving money on the table – but no pressure!
Making small changes could be as easy as adding adjustable fonts, understandable content, or keyboard navigation. These things don’t affect your site’s looks and only take a little longer. Wouldn’t it be better than turning hundreds of would-be-viewers away because they can’t use your site?
3. The Number of ADA Disability Lawsuits Reported Every Year is Increasing
Every year, lawsuits are being reported to increase in more significant and larger numbers by people who are not reasonably accommodated for their disabilities. This is something to keep in mind when designing software or websites. Retailers and restaurants are topping the lists of these lawsuits for web accessibility – with over 66% of internet retailers’ top 500 being part of a case since 2017.
The thing is, is it worth all this fuss? If you can make your website accessible and find ways to incorporate people’s feedback while being inclusive at the same time, why wouldn’t you? A little time now, considering the needs of others, saves you a lot of trouble later—why wouldn’t you take steps to include people if it’s just going to be a headache if you don’t? Something to think about!
4. Don’t Forget Cognitive Disabilities.
Did you know that nearly 30 million adults struggle to read, and 15% of people have some form of dyslexia? It’s easy to forget cognitive disabilities, but we shouldn’t—nearly 4.8% of people in the US are affected by some form of mental disability.
The world’s population is aging, which means cognitive disabilities are increasing every year – people over 60 are the fastest-growing age group globally. Problems like dyslexia, aging, ADHD, and other factors, are all good arguments for why you need to consider cognitive disabilities in your design.
Complex content might seem like a good idea. Still, not everyone will be able to digest it when it’s not written to be understandable. You don’t need to do much, but incorporating written content free of jargon or fancy grammar is a massive step forward.
A good rule of thumb is if a 7th grader can understand it, you’re usually golden. Writing your best, more legible copy to engage your audience is also just a good web practice. You’ll be helping people who struggle to focus, as well as people who generally work with reading chunks of text or someone who has a short attention span!
5. Assistive Technology Detection is Not Possible or Allowed
Sometimes marketers request analytic data about people with disabilities. This question is entirely innocent since it aims to establish your company’s priority level of accessibility work. But here is the issue.
While it would be helpful to plan for US and marketing purposes, disability laws put people with disabilities in a protected class. Because people with disabilities are at risk for discrimination based on their impairments. But the thing is, even if the tracking was allowed, many assistive technologies don’t send analytics information because they operate in-browser, and it wouldn’t work.
You’re better off just making your websites preemptively accessible. If you do, You’re setting yourself up for a more straightforward job later – you’ll thank yourself!
6. Web Accessibility Reduces Bounce Rates and Marketing Costs
Do you know what happens when your website is not accessible? People will leave. Rather than fighting with an unfriendly UI, most users will click away, and your bounce rate will suffer. The bounce rate is the amount that users click away from your page to find another website.
When you’re hoping to rank your website on Google, you want a low bounce rate, and a high click-through rate; You want people to stay on your site for a while. So if you take your Accessibility seriously, you will benefit greatly. Why? Well, analytics are blind, in many cases – a disabled person counts precisely the same as someone non-disabled.
If people are clicking off, it doesn’t matter why. The more people stay, the less money you will need to promote your content, as algorithms will begin to recognize your website as good content. It’s as simple as that!
Yes! making these changes means a bit of work upfront – but significantly less work down the line. If you don’t, you are at risk of lawsuits, high bounce rates, and many more issues; Accessibility will ensure everyone can enjoy your website without barriers so just do it 😉.
It will also increase your SEO rating, reduce your marketing costs, and improve web usability. It does all of this while protecting you from lawsuits down the line. You, as the designer, should keep in mind what people are saying because including people who your design choices would otherwise put off will save you leagues of trouble, down the line.
If you want more information on web accessibility and why you should care, make sure you check out our blog. If you’re going to want to see more articles like this, and make sure you subscribe to our newsletter for notifications about new content so you don’t miss a single article!