What is web accessibility and why is it important?

Just imagine what would happen if you could tap into a market of over 11.5 million people, and that’s just in the UK. 

Imagine how that would benefit your business or organisation.

Imagine how that increased revenue could help you help your clients.

You may have a brand new website, and you’re undoubtedly really proud of it, yet you’re still having a problem with converting visitors into sales, donations or enquiries.  There’s nothing obvious wrong with your site at first glance, it ranks well on Google, it’s really pretty, it has lots of useful information and you know that the products you sell are what your customers want.

There could be a few problems with it, but did you know that not everyone can use many of the websites out there? ‘Eh?’, I hear you say, ‘surely everyone in this day and age can use a website?’.

Unfortunately, that’s not true. Some people just aren’t interested in anything to do with the internet, but there is also a large group of people with disabilities of one sort or another who struggle to use some websites. 

It’s estimated that there are 11.5 million people in the UK who are disabled, but in terms of web accessibility difficulties this is a huge underestimate because that figure doesn’t include people with more minor problems that they would never think of as a disability.

What kinds of people have problems using websites?

There are all sorts of disabilities or impairments that can make it difficult for someone to use a website.

For example, think about someone who has a visual impairment of some sort – from those with no sight at all, through those who have partial or restricted vision, to people with other visual problems like colour blindness or poor contrast vision (that includes me, by the way).

An illustration of how blue and purple look to someone with deuteranopia

There are also people with disabilities not related to vision who have difficulty accessing some websites. People with dementia may find it tough to navigate through a busy website with lots of information seeming to come at them from all angles; or people with a tremor might find it difficult to hit the right button on a touch screen, especially a small screen such as a mobile phone. Or what about people with no arms? How can they use a mouse or tap a screen?

By not making your website easy for everyone to use, regardless of the challenges they face in life, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of the market.

This can be especially true of charity websites where either their target audience is the disabled people themselves, or maybe the target audience is their carers, or their family (who will want to see a site which is sympathetic to their loved one’s needs).

What makes a website accessible to all?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Amongst many other things, they have produced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The Accessibility Guidelines have been (and still are being) developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.

“Web content” generally refers to the information in a web page or web application, including:

  • natural information such as text, images, and sounds
  • code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

How do you know if your website is accessible?

The full guidelines are extremely detailed and cover not just websites but the whole of the digital world, but if you would like to quickly check whether or not your website meets these guidelines, use one of the online accessibility checkers such as https://wave.webaim.org/.

If you’d like to know more, or would like some help making your website more accessible, feel free to give me a call on 07762 140 433, or drop me a line at jackie@jackdawwebdesign.co.uk.