Web Accessibility Isn’t Just a “Nice to Have”

Web Accessibility Helps Everyone

Website accessibility helps everyone, not just "the disabled"

Website accessibility helps everyone, not just “the disabled”

One in five Americans self-identify as having a disability, and with the aging of the population, that number keeps on growing.

On top of that, there are the masses of people in their 40s and beyond who are struggling with “middle aged vision”, arthritis, and fading hearing but who don’t think of themselves as ‘disabled’. In our website usability testing we’ve found that people in their 40s are the ones most annoyed by small, low-contrast fonts. They haven’t given up and got reading glasses yet!

So designing your websites, apps, and physical environments to be accessible to people with disabilities makes it more likely you’ll be able to sell to everybody!

Legal Requirements for Accessibility

Apart from the financial benefits that come from more accessible websites, you should know that it’s also legally required in many places.

For example:

  • In the United States, any organization selling to or partnering with the federal government must meet web accessibility criteria. There are also state-specific rules.
  • In the province of Ontario, Canada, every company with 50 or more employees and all government organizations must have accessible websites.
  • In Europe all websites run by public sector organizations must meet accessibility guidelines. Many individual countries also have requirements for private sector companies.

Push Your Designers for Accessible Websites

Accessible websites are not only "nice to have"; they help you sell more!

Accessible websites are not only “nice to have”; they help you sell more!

Unfortunately, you cannot assume that your web developers are even aware of web accessibility guidelines, let alone take them into account in their design work. Few are taught about accessibility when they learn to code or design.

If they come from a visual design background, they often care more about aesthetics than accessibility. I’ve had innumerable arguments with web designers who wanted to use grey text on a white or off-white background because it looks sleek and sophisticated. But if you test it, these sites don’t come close to adequate color contrast for many users to be able to actually read the text!

That doesn’t mean you have to have a garish, tacky looking website with bright, contrasting colors. But it does mean designers need to push themselves to think past the “trends” they read about in design books, because those trends probably haven’t taken accessibility into account. And the companies they are designing for are losing sales as a result.

Wonder What’s Needed to Make Your Site Accessible?

There’s a great free testing tool called WAVE, at http://wave.webaim.org/. Testing your site will probably make you feel queasy, because pretty well everybody will discover their sites have accessibility errors. (Guilty as charged! That will change in our next website.)

So how do you choose a web designer who gets accessibility? Joanne Pires, of eSSENTIAL Accessibility, advises asking your website developers:

  • Have you built an accessible website? (Make them to show you examples.)
  • Do you know what the standards and regulations are in the jurisdictions we serve?
  • Are you aware of WCAG 2.0?

Plan your site with accessibility in mind, right from the start. Changes are much easier to make in the early stages than after they’ve been coded in.

Then, as your designer works, I’d suggest you keep running their designs through at tool like WAVE, and just keep pushing them to knock off the problems it identifies.

Cool Free Accessibility Tool For Navigating Websites

In the meantime, as we navigate a jungle of inaccessible websites, eSSENTIAL Accessibility is making a free tool available to help people who struggle with current websites use them more easily. You can download it at https://www.essentialaccessibility.com/download-app/.

Hear more about this topic in my interview with Joanne Pires on the Frank Reactions Podcast on Customer Experience. And if you’ve seen any examples of really bad or really great accessiblity, please share the links below! (Speaking of iffy accessibility, you’ll need to scroll a bit to get to the comments section.)

This post is part of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s Blog Carnival celebrating customer experience. It’s part of a broader celebration of Customer Experience Day 2017. Check out posts from other bloggers at the blog carnival. And learn more about CX Day at: http://cxday.org

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