Accessible websites have come to the forefront of people’s minds with legal actions being taken against websites that are not accessible. As a website owner you may think this doesn’t affect your small business, association or non profit website but it does. Let’s take a look at accessible websites beyond the buzz word accessible, the legal requirements of having an accessible website and legal repercussions if you don’t.
One thing to keep in mind when talking about an accessible website and people with afflictions that impede their life is that the subject is not limited to one particular group. There are various types of afflictions, both prominent and not so prominet, to consider. Someone who has trouble seeing due to aging or a disease would have a vision problem as well as a person who is blind. Motor skill disabilities are not limited to those who are born will motor skill problems, they could happen with age, an accident or disease also. There are also hearing, colour blindness and comprehension issues that affect any type of people.
With the advancement of technology those with afflictions that have in the past made them feel they are house bound or dependent on others have a greater access to the sense of freedom and independence than they once had. They no longer have to rely on others for the most part in their day to day life. There are still some barriers to over come but generally they learn to carry on life much like you and I. Their needs and wants are just the same as a person that does not have a disability.
Along came the Internet. What a marvellous tool for those who have some kind of disability to use! They no longer have to rely on someone else to take them shopping, to the drug store or anywhere else that has a website. They can learn at their own speed without worrying about keeping up with the rest of the class to fulfill their dreams at their own pace. No longer do they have to feel shut in, the world is only a few keystrokes away.
I spoke of some barriers still to be over come. One of those barriers is inaccessible websites. Those with disabilities still enjoy the same things as those without disabilities. They also have money to spend, just like you and me.
Can your business (or client’s business) afford to turn away any customers?
Making Your Website Accessible
Most small business websites are not that fancy and high tech that the cost to make the website accessible will be that much.
Constructing Accessible Websites
Constructing basic accessible websites is not that hard and should not be expensive. If the website coding complies with the strict version of HTML 4.01 or XHTML you’d be amazed how close to an accessible website you will be. With a few further tweaks to cover colour blindness, and navigation issues you should have a basic accessible website.
Incorporating all of these into the construction of a website will not only make your website accessible it will help your business grow.
Benefits of an Accessible Website
As mentioned above, there are all types of afflictions that make accessing a website difficult for all different types of people. Visitors to websites are from all walks of life.
Having an accessible website benefits you and your visitors by:
- having leaner background coding for the browser and technologies that assist in visiting a website to get through.
- leaner background coding helps to improve download speed of a website.
- the little bit of extra features added to a website to make it accessible also improves the usability of the website.
- broadening the website visitor base to beyond the expected targeted audience.
- using leaner coding and the techniques for accessible websites you can also improve your search engine results.
- using a clear heading structure benefits those who use a device to read the website so they will understand how the content flows and those who can see the website can find the key areas they are looking for.
- using image alt tags properly will assist those who have images turned off, are using a speech reader to read the web page to them and can improve the search engine optimization of the web page.
Accessible Web Design
Can your website afford not to incorporate an accessible web design? If your answer is yes then think of it this way, you may be on the other side of the fence some day because of an illness, an accident or just from getting older. How would you feel if your shopping experience or general enjoyment of the Internet was limited because you couldn’t use a website?
Accessible web design is not a new fad. It’s here to stay. As groups for those with afflictions take on accessibility issues that are not addressed on websites they will gain ground.
With accessible web design everyone benefits, you get more visitors, your website gains popularity because it works for everyone, you get more sales and those with disabilities enjoy the same benefits of the internet as those without.
Further Reading on Accessibility Issues
Accessibility for blind people An interview with a Japanese computer programmer about accessibility for blind people. Very interesting. Explains braille display and speech readers.
Why Web Accessibility Makes Sense An online presentation of why having an accessible website makes sense by Accessites.org. Shows the value of web accessibility, why it makes sense and why it is a must-have for any website.
Some large retailers are moving to more accessible websites:
- Amazon to make web more open to blind, court rules
- Target settles suit with Nat’l Federation of Blind
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