First of all, what is web accessibility? How do we define it? If you are a developer, or you work in tech, it's likely something that you've heard of, at least in passing.
Here is the definition of web accessibility according to Wikipedia:
Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.
I believe that every professional web developer should keep accessibility in mind when building a website. Sometimes it can be hard to get across the importance of this, especially when working to tight deadlines or trying to keep costs down. But having an accessible website is important, and here are 6 reasons why:
1. Browsing experience
A good browser experience means designing and implementing your website to be readable, easy to understand, easy to interact with, and easy to hear. Every user that comes across your website will benefit from this, therefore good accessibility on your website will improve the browsing experience for all users.
Thinking about accessibility early on in your project and working it into the design will improve the overall user experience, rather than adding it in as an afterthought at the end.
Search engine spiders are computer programs, not people. They do not have sight and cannot hear. They are much like screen readers in this way. By implementing good accessibility standards and practices, this will help the spider to crawl your website and store information for the search engine to index. Without good accessibility, it is harder for the spider to perceive how your website is organised, and therefore it could miss some content entirely. This in turn could affect your page rankings negatively.
3. Best practices
Accessibility breeds good practices in other areas of the project lifecycle. By thinking about it from the start of a project, it encourages people on the team to think about it when writing user stories, and user flows, as well as information architecture. It makes sense to work it in at that stage, so that when it comes to development, there has been some consideration for making the information you're trying to display easy to find, read, interact with etc.
4. Business case
There is a compelling business case for incorporating accessibility into the project lifecycle; by excluding accessibility from the planning aspects of a project you are potentially alienating a large audience and therefore a large income from those users.
- Businesses lose approximately £2 billion a month by ignoring the needs of disabled people.
- Estimates show that the 4.3 million disabled online shoppers, who click away from inaccessible websites, have a combined spending power of £11.75 billion in the UK.
There are many other reasons why your website should be accessible, however if you are trying to convince your boss or someone who is not familiar or interested in web accessibility, then perhaps the numbers above will help sway them, or at least make them consider the possibilities.
By supporting accessibility, and demonstrating this within your own company, you are acting in the best interests of the community. It shows that you care about your users, and want everyone to have the same experience when they visit your website, regardless of their individual needs. It's inclusive and that is important. Showing that you care in this way also creates a positive brand image. It shows that you are making responsible choices in policy and your customers/users will recognise and appreciate this.
6. Legal requirements
In the UK, and many other countries, there is a legal requirement for you to make your website accessible to everyone who needs it. If this is not the case, you could be in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
To meet government accessibility requirements, you must meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) as a minimum.
There are many articles out there to help guide you in writing accessible code, and hopefully the reasons above will help support you. Many people see disability in the extremes, when actually there are different types of disabilities - some are temporary conditions, and some are situational. Taking these into consideration will help improve the quality of the websites we are putting out there, and help remove any unnecessary barriers to accessing the information we seek. The web has the potential to touch all human demographics across the globe, and accessibility gives us the tools to make it inclusive and available to those audiences.
About the Author
Lynne is a front-end developer, mentor, and open-source contributor. She has been working in the industry for 8 years, and enjoys bringing designs to life on the web. Outside of work, Lynne spends her time training in the gym, gaming, and reading books.