Lately we’ve seen a trend in the online world – everyone wants to be included. Online businesses, forums and websites are changing their designs and strategies to make sure people do not feel excluded and ignored. Another attempt to this end has been including accessibility into their online presence.
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility is a measurement of a user’s ability to use products/services, the extent to and ease with which they can meet their goals. A common misconception is that accessibility requires a focus on users that have some kind of disability — but that isn’t the case. Accessibility design is design that is inclusive to everyone – and businesses are getting a whiff of that.
1) It’s Nice & Makes People Feel Good
This point is basic – it’s nice to be nice. Wouldn’t you want everyone who visits your website to feel welcome and accepted? The crux of the matter is – the reason there are so many arguments for accessible design is that – it’s very hard to come up with an argument against it. When websites are accessible, everyone feels good, and this in turn makes it easier to build brand equity.
Think about it – why would a business want to exclude a potential customer? That person who couldn’t access their website might have been a paying customer if they were able to use it. Every user that feels good and welcome is one that might potentially convert. Therefore, businesses want to keep people feeling at home, and welcome.
2) It Makes for a Better Website
Studies show that accessible websites tend to have better search result optimisation, reach a bigger audience, are more SEO friendly, load quicker and have lower download times, help to build better coding practices, and always have better overall usability.
Empathy is the cornerstone of good design – and is one of the hardest known skills to embody and practice. Designing with accessibility in mind enables people with a range of abilities and disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to a website – and therefore designers are at the forefront of the accessibility effort.
3) It Can Lead to Innovation
The largest tech companies in the world believe accessibility to be a basic human right — and in that they drive their products to be better, human-er. By embracing accessibility and inclusive design practices, oftentimes, teams find that by designing with a more diverse group of people in mind they can get better overall creations and new ideas that apply to all users. There are many everyday examples: capabilities like screen magnification, captions, and voice control are in regular use by the general public without people thinking of them as purely ‘accessibility features’.
Microsoft has found success in recent years thanks to an increased focus on accessibility and has integrated this into their marketing as well. Google has also sought to make an impact on accessibility and found new innovations and ideas because “…the accessibility problems of today are the mainstream breakthroughs of tomorrow.” Google’s Project Tango uses computer vision to help accurately place blind people in a three-dimensional space.
4) It Builds the Customers Base
Maximising ease of use for all ability levels creates products that anyone can use and enjoy, whatever the context. Accessible sites are generally more usable to everyone – including people with disabilities, older people, people with low literacy, people who are not fluent in the language of the site, people with low bandwidth connections to the internet, people with older technologies, and new and infrequent web users. Catering to them increases the potential market segments and the possible users that can use the site.
Increased usability means users achieve their goals more effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily. When users have a positive experience, they are more likely to use the site or application more thoroughly, return more often, and share their experience with others.
The world over, 650 million people have a disability with some estimates as high as one billion or around 15% of the global population (according to WHO). In the United States alone, the estimated 64 million disabled persons have a purchasing power of 175 billion dollars. An accessible site opens the door to a greater market share which includes those in the broader disabilities community – and improves the experience for current users as well.
5) Sometimes, It’s Legally Required
And the cherry on the top is this – In February 2006, Bruce Sexton Jr., a student at the University of California-Berkeley and president of the California Association of Blind Students, sued Target because its web site was inaccessible to the blind. Filed in conjunction with the National Federation of the Blind, the suit was also used to spotlight many corporate sites that don’t play well with screen reading technology. They had to pay 6 million dollars in eventual settlement and continue to collaborate for the NFB to ensure accessibility.
The digital channel is becoming more important to everybody: companies, customers, or prospective customers. In the last few years, web accessibility-related lawsuits have increased by a whopping 181%. This has forced thousands of organisations to understand its importance and understand that accessibility compliance in important in today’s digital landscape. Seeing this, having an accessible website is no longer an option or a luxury, it can actually prevent a serious cost on the company. Evaluate your accessibility level with a tool like WAVE. If you’re not accessible (which likely be the case), a good option here is to make use of platforms like accessiBe – which provide automation for accessibility adjustments. Other solutions like
As you can see, we are at a stage right now where inclusivity and accessibility design can no longer be an after-thought to good design and experiences. How we create our products today and who we cater to and include will determine how we sustain and are appreciated in the long run. Making a website accessible sometimes requires some knowledge of design and development, and some time and effort to be invested.