September 28th, 2011

Why Web Accessibility Matters

Frustrated web user accessing non-accessible website

The web offers a wealth of opportunities to people with disabilities that are unavailable through any other medium. It offers independence, freedom and knowledge.  “For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient. For people with disabilities, it makes things possible.” states Judith Heumann, U.S. Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. By developing websites that are not accessible, businesses may be inadvertently reducing their potential traffic by up to 20%.  Most people do not intend to exclude people with disabilities, but this startling statistic reflects a lack of awareness around the importance of web accessibility. By removing barriers between any potential clients, you can open your site up to a wealth of new customers that you may not have had an opportunity to reach before.

While web accessibility is generally associated with disabled users (including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities), building a website compliant with accessibility guidelines ultimately benefits all users.  Many of the web accessibility guidelines that enable disabled users can help able-bodied Internet users as well.  While able-bodied users may not have physical impairments, they can encounter ‘situational disabilities’.   These could include using a mobile browser or having a slow Internet connection, having a temporary disability such as a broken arm, or simply being novices who are not familiar with how the web works.  In these situations, having an accessible website benefits these individuals due to the alternative ways to access a website.

Accessible websites make the Internet more navigable and allow users to find content more easily.  This is especially important considering the number of Internet users in North America has increased over 150% within the last decade and will continue to grow steadily (Internet World Stats). Implementing practices such as consistent navigation, well structured titles and headlines, and readable text allows users the easiest and most productive access to your website’s content.

Web accessibility can ultimately increase your conversion rates. Since your content and information is more navigable, customers can find what they need more quickly and the chances of converting them to customers increases.

There are many reasons people choose to incorporate web accessibility into their game plan. Whether it is an ethical, business or legal reason, applying web accessibility into your process guarantees inclusive access to information.  As a design agency, we come across a lot of business owners who think that in order for a site to be accessible it has to look dull as well. They feel they have to sacrifice one for the other.  We disagree;  as long as your site takes into consideration the accessibility guidelines then there is no limit to what you can produce from a design perspective.   By coupling web accessibility guidelines and great design, websites can strike the perfect balance of form and function.

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