What is website accessibility?
Website accessibility is about how easy it is for disabled users to access the information or services that your website offers. Having a website that is accessible means that everyone can access the content on your website and it is easy to understand your content. It covers all disabilities that can affect access to your website, but it can also benefit other users including older people and those with ‘temporary disabilities’.
The accessibility of your website needs to be thought about while your website is being designed and developed, and while you are adding or updating content – text, images, videos, and documents that can be downloaded from your website. For example, videos with important information in the sound should have subtitles, closed captions, or a text transcript alternative.
Your web designer or developer should create an accessible website as standard and should not be charging extra for it. Ask them about it before any agreement is reached. Once your website is up and running it will be up to the people that add content to it to make sure that it is all accessible.
Having an inaccessible website means that you are shutting out part of your target audience for no reason. Around 11 million people in the UK have a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability – that’s about 16% of working age adults, and 5% of adults over State Pension age. Why make it difficult for them to get to your products or services?
Anyone can have accessibility issues, not just disabled people – if you fall and injure your wrist, if you need glasses, if you get an ear infection and can’t hear properly. All of these could cause problems when you are trying to use websites – unless the websites have been built to be accessible.
UK law, in the Equality Act 2010, states that no user should be exluded on the basis of disability. A website that is inaccessible to people with disabilites is considered a breach of the Equality Act 2010 and a court case could be brought against the website owners.
See the Gov.uk – Accessibility, how to make services that everyone can use webpage for guidance from the government for how to ensure that your website complies with legal guidelines.
As a starting point, the government recommends that your website should meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) created by theWorld Wide Web Consortium (W3C) You should aim for your website and the content on it to meet Level AA of the guidelines.
Web Accessibility Myths
Have you heard that an accessible website is also a boring website? Or that it is too expensive or time consuming to create?
Well that isn’t the case! An accessible website does not have to be ugly or boring. You can still have a beautiful, media-rich website that is interactive and engaging, and accessible. If you build in accessibility right from the start it does not add a lot to the cost or the time to develop. And as we have already seen, you could be fined for having an inaccessible website – a lot more than the cost of getting it right from the start.
Making websites accessible means following web standards. This in turn will make your website easier for everyone to use, more future proof, more robust, and more scalable. It will mean it works better across the wide range of tablets and phones in use today, and more likely to work on devices released in the future.
If your visitors, disabled or not, see that your website is easy to use they are more likely to return, and hopefully spread the word about you to friends and family! For you this can lead to more sales, an improved reputation, and a bigger audience.
The benefits of having an accessible website far outweigh the cost and extra effort that go into it.
Introduction to Web Accessibility from the W3C
Gov.uk Disability facts and figures
BBC – What is accessibility?
10 Easy Accessibility Tips Anyone Can Use