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Blogs by Madeleine Helme

Madeleine Helme

| 4 min read

Why is Accessibility Important on a Website?

By Madeleine Helme

Photographer: Sigmund | Source: Unsplash

It’s difficult to imagine what having any kind of disability or impairment would have been like hundreds of years ago. Imagine being short-sighted before glasses were invented or having paraplegia before wheelchairs were available.

Luckily, we’ve come a long way with various technologies and more inclusive behaviours to help give people with disabilities a good quality of life. We should always be striving to find ways to remove barriers for people, including online. In this article, we’re going to discuss web accessibility, why it’s so important, and how you can adapt your website with accessibility in mind.

Including everyone in the user experience

When designing and building a website, one of the most important considerations is the user experience (UX). You want to make sure that your website’s UX is streamlined so that there are no barriers to purchase or conversion. There should be an easy and logical path through the website and it should be intuitive to use, as well as basic upkeep like ensuring all links are working.

But when you don’t consider accessibility on your website, you are excluding quite a large minority of people from your user experience. You should aim to make your website usable for as many people as possible, regardless of their physical abilities, cognitive abilities, or even their digital skills.

Who does web accessibility impact?

There are lots of people for whom using a website might be difficult or even impossible if it is not designed with accessibility in mind. This can include people with,

  • Hearing loss
  • Vision impairment
  • Colour-blindness
  • Dyslexia
  • Mobility issues
  • Learning disabilities

Why is accessibility so important?

Let’s first think about this purely from a business success and financial standpoint. Approximately 11% of people in the UK have a disability that could impact their use of the internet. That’s millions of people across the country. People that could fit into the demographics and interests of your ideal customer.

If your website is not built in a way that’s usable for such a person, then that’s a lot of potential customers you’re isolating and perhaps losing as a result. Being more inclusive through web accessibility is also good for your brand’s reputation as your audience sees that you care, making them more likely to buy from you. Plus, Google tends to rank accessible websites more highly than their non-accessible counterparts, helping to boost your site’s SEO.

Now let’s think about it from a humanitarian perspective. Accessibility online, just like physical accessibility in real life, is an important part of being inclusive. A building without an entry ramp and a lift imposes unfair barriers on wheelchair users, which is likely to make them feel excluded and marginalised.

You can think of web accessibility as a wheelchair ramp to your digital brand and content, making it accessible for all and ensuring that everyone in your audience feels valued and accepted.

Understanding accessibility guidelines

There are highly regulated rules in place for public sector websites, such as government bodies, when it comes to accessibility. While these do not apply to private companies in an enforceable manner, they still provide good guidelines to follow in order to make your brand more inclusive.

The 2018 legislation states that websites and mobile apps must be made “perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.” Since this might not clear up much for you, let’s look at just a few examples of features that can make websites more accessible:

  • Keyboard navigation – Some users with low mobility may be unable to use a mouse to navigate the web. Relevant keyboard inputs and shortcuts on your site can help them navigate it more easily
  • Text size – People with less severe visual impairments may not be able to read small text on a screen. Having an option to increase text size will help them read the content more easily
  • Alt text – If a visually impaired user is using a screen reader or similar software to read a website, then adding descriptive alt text to your images will help them understand what images are on the page
  • Captions – If you have a video with sound on your website, then enabling captions on this video will allow users with hearing impairments to understand the content
  • Colour contrast – Users with colour-blindness and even dyslexia can find content difficult to read depending on the colour of the text and background. Choose colours that contrast each other highly to remove this barrier

Public sector websites must also include an accessibility statement on their site outlining and explaining any accessibility provisions and limitations.

Testing your website’s accessibility

Gov.uk estimates that 4 in 10 local council websites don’t meet the requirements set out by the government’s regulations. Considering that this is a highly regulated sector, you can imagine that this statistic in the private sector is much lower. So, how can you find out how accessible your website is?

There are a number of tools online that can rate your website in terms of accessibility. Many of these give you a score based on different accessibility requirements, as well as providing suggestions on how you can improve your score and make your website more accessible.

Example WAVE report on the Google home page
Example WAVE report on the Google home page

To get an even better impression of your website’s accessibility, you can manually test it by attempting to navigate your own site using only keyboard navigation or a speech reader, for example. Alternatively, you can go to a professional to have them fully audit your website in order to assess its accessibility. At Vitty, we have a comprehensive checklist when it comes to designing websites, so we can help you assess your brand’s website.

Upgrading your website for accessibility

Whichever method you use to test your website’s accessibility, you should come out with some helpful tips on how to improve it. Whether you’re updating your current website with these tips in mind or you need a new accessible website building for your business, we can help.

We build all of our clients’ websites with accessibility and responsiveness in mind, so we can help you reach more of your customers online. Get in touch with us to find out more about our accessible website design and maintenance in Nottingham.