Why should you make your website design accessible?
In 2002 the National Census and the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) made
additions to include questions about disability. The Census found “that 8.3% of
all [Irish] persons are classified as having a disability”. The QNHS in the same
year found that “about 10% of persons aged 15 to 64 indicated that they had a longstanding
health problem or disability and that about 40% of these were in employment”.
Adhering to website accessibility guidelines makes your content available
and usable to all these users. These guidelines describe best practices for when
you are creating your web design and how you write the code which makes your website.
The annual expenditure of people with disabilities is enormous so it would therefore
be incredibly foolish business practice to exclude them. The common analogy is a
shop where a person comes to the counter with some goods they wish to purchase.
They have the money to pay but due to their disability they are unable to hand it
to you so you must step around the counter to take the money from them. Refusing
to make this small effort is the real world equivalent of not making your website
Search Engine Benefits:
Search engines visiting your site ignore all layout, graphical and visual elements.
All the search engine is concerned with is content and how to navigate through it.
In this sense a search engine is very much like a blind user using a screen reader.
So making your site accessible instantly makes it friendlier to search engines and
will positively affect your ranking.
What are the Accessibility Issues?
People with accessibility concerns can be broken down into three broad sections:
People with physical disabilities, hardware issues and educational issues.
A large percentage of the population are affected by some form of reduced vision
ranging from simple long / short-sightedness to complete blindness. Making your
website accessible to these users need not be a difficult or expensive exercise.
For example, guideline 1.2 states: “Ensure that information does not rely on colour
perception”. A common violation of this guideline is when websites highlight new
content in a different colour. Users who suffer from colour blindness or who are
using screen readers will not be aware of the distinction. Simply adding the word
"new" to the content title would make you compliant!
Today, people are accessing the Internet via myriad new devices - the mobile internet
audience is the fastest growing internet audience. Many of the features of the Internet
are not available or feasible on these devices and so your website should adapt
to give the the optimum user experience regardless of the device. Similarly, users
viewing a website should enjoy the same experience regardless of what browser they
are using. Finally, users have the ability to change the screen resolution on their
computer. The website should display correctly regardless of whether the user has
800x600 or 1920x1200.
Knowledge and Ability:
Many people these days use the Internet on a daily basis. However, people less familiar
to the Internet may not be aware of how some of the most basic things work. For
example, one of the most common searches on Google is actual URL's as users believe
this is how you access a website. A clear, intuitive layout along with makes the
browsing experience a simple, natural process.