The Importance of Web Accessibility

Web accessibility—the practice of making websites and web tools accessible to as many people as possible—is rapidly growing in importance in the world of web design and development. The web levels the playing field for people from all different walks of life and removes barriers for people who may have disabilities and struggle in one way or another in the physical world. 

With more people than ever working and learning from home, it is important to make sure websites and web tools are properly designed so that no user is left out. Poor website and web tool design can limit accessibility, often unintentionally. It is up to web designers and developers to ensure the products and services they offer can be easily utilized by everyone.

In addition to supporting people with disabilities, accessibility can include other groups that are often marginalized such as populations in rural areas, populations in developing countries, and older populations. Additionally, improving accessibility is a good business decision as it improves the overall user experience for all users. An increased focus on accessibility can spearhead new product and service offerings as well as expand market share. Once accessibility becomes a priority for you and your organization, it will become an integral part of the design process.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common disabilities, and how smart design can make the web accessible for all.

Cognitive impairments

This group includes people with a wide range of disabilities including learning disabilities and mental illness. The most common issues this group has when using the web are difficulties understanding content on websites and how to navigate complex web page layouts. To help this group, designers can focus on making easily understood content by delivering the content in more than one way, such as text, video, and text-to-speech. Maintaining a consistent web page layout and making forms easy to understand and submit are other ways to ensure accessibility for this group.

Mobility impairments

This group includes people with different disabilities ranging from physical impairments to neurological conditions. Disabilities include difficulties moving a mouse around on the computer screen and conditions that require assistive technologies such as speech recognition. Designing a website that can be fully navigated with just a keyboard can go a long way toward meeting the needs of this group.

Visual impairments

This group includes people with blindness, limited vision and color blindness. To help this group, it is important to include tools with zoom capabilities for websites and web tools. It is also helpful to include screen readers so that users can opt to have the text on the site read aloud to them. 

Hearing impairments

This group includes people who are completely deaf or partially hard of hearing. To keep websites accessible for people in this group, make sure all audio content is transcribed and all video content has closed captioning easily available. 

Designers and organizations often publish accessibility statements on their websites to provide an overview of accessibility policies and what steps have been taken to improve in this area. This can be a good way to be transparent, and it is also an opportunity to solicit feedback from users about areas for improvement.

The World Health Organization states that over 1 billion people—15% of the global population—have a disability. By not incorporating accessibility into websites and web tools, designers and organizations miss out on a massive number of people who might otherwise be potential users. Accessibility in web design is the right thing to do, makes the experience better for all users, and can help businesses grow worldwide.

 

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