We first won an award for the UK’s most accessible website back in 2007, but 15 years on when we bring it up with clients it is still usually met with blank stares. I think it’s because if you are savvy enough to be ordering a new website, you might not be able to even imagine using the internet in a non-standard way. But let’s back it up buttercup, and think about what Web Accessibility is, then maybe I can convince you that it’s going to help your website, and your business to grow.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is about your website being usable by as many of your visitors as possible. Not everyone has the same abilities and needs but their circumstances should not prevent them from accessing your website. If someone’s ability to do something is compromised, even temporarily, then we’d consider them to have an impairment. Impairments we consider when designing a website include:
- Difficulties with dexterity – is your website easy to click and access information on from any device?
- Can you navigate your website with a text-to-speech reader? Could a colourblind person use your website?
- Do your videos have subtitles? Are there ways of contacting you without using a phone?
- This is a biggie as people with Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD) can struggle with situation awareness, spatial awareness, task-set switching, and anticipating system response. (This is not covered adequately by W3C Compliant websites – but that’s another blog for another day)
Why is Web Accessibility vital?
When you make your website more accessible, the help you give people with different needs will help ALL of your users. It’s a win win. Whatever you do, it will improve every visitors’ ability to access your website.
At the start of this article I said that people only tend to add in things to their website that will help them personally. It doesn’t make us bad people! I don’t have a wheelchair ramp into my home because I don’t need one. But if I had a customer coming to my store who physically couldn’t access it because of the steps, I’d get on Amazon and order a ramp that day! Making your website accessible is like getting that ramp in advance. It’s about removing barriers, being empathetic, and trying to accommodate people who have different needs and who want to be your customers. Don’t design your website for some people, design it for all people.
Where do you start?
If you are starting with a new website, then tell your developer that accessibility is important to you. Get it in the brief. Make it key to the website’s success. If you are looking to improve your current website, then start small. We can get to improving the layout, colours and UX later – let’s start with:
- Use Alt Text for people, not search engines
- Add captions to your videos
- Ensure you have accessible ways to contact your business
- Make sure the order of your headings and text make sense without graphics
- Make sure your text isn’t too small on mobile browsers
- Check your click zones aren’t too small
- Consider adding aria-* elements to your code.
It’s a start. If you want to take it further, send your web developers to the W3C (aka the World Wide Web Consortium). They control the standards of the internet and have created a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to ensure that as many people as possible are able to use websites on an equal footing.
If you want to find out more, get in touch with Kuka today, and see some examples of our award-winning accessible websites.