4 minute read

Web accessibility in 5 minutes

Web accessibility is the practice of making your websites usable by as many people as possible.

This means giving equal access to people with disabilities, for example users who are partially sighted, or hard of hearing. By adopting accessibility, you allow universal access to your website.

The business case for accessibility

  • A more accessible website has more customers. With over a billion people worldwide having some form of disability, creating an accessible website increases the potential audience for your products or services.
  • Web accessibility make for highly usable websites. The practices of web accessibility results in websites that are easier to use, deliver a better customer experience, and are more commercially effective.
  • Avoid serious legal and reputational risk. Many website engages with customers that enforce some legal minimum for accessibility. Being the subject of a lawsuit will cost far more than building to be accessible by default.

Learn more about the business case for accessibility.

The moral case for accessibility

  • The average US citizen spends 6.5 hours a day on the internet. Imagine how much of your life you might miss if the web were inaccessible to you.
  • Much of our knowledge, opportunities, and freedoms exist solely online. Access to services like education, retail, finance, and healthcare is a fundamental human right.
  • Your work can transform the lives of disabled people. The web can empower people with access to a service – or it can become another barrier. Through the websites we build, we get to choose what world we want to live in.

Learn more about the moral case for accessibility.

The selfish case for accessibility

  • Accessibility pays. Whether you’re a website manager, designer, developer, or writer, having experience of accessibility is a distinctive and valued skill that can translate into higher income.
  • Accessibility multiplies your other skills. Accessibility challenges many assumptions about how a website should be designed, implemented, and tested. This fundamental reframe reveals a higher level of understanding than most professionals will ever contemplate.
  • Raise your prestige. Being well-versed in web accessibility can show that you are forward-thinking and considerate of all users, enhancing your reputation.

Learn more about the selfish case for accessibility.

How do people with disabilities use the web?

Start by realizing that not everyone is like you. Many people use a computer without the ability to use a mouse, or a keyboard, or even a screen.

Some examples:

  • Blind and partially-sighted users. Without the ability to read text, many users rely on a “screen reader”, a technology that converts the contents of their screen into speech they can hear. Typically they will control a screen reader with physical controls, such as a keyboard or touch display.
  • People with mobility impairments. Some people may have difficulties with precise movements or may be unable to use a mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen. They might use assistive technologies such as eye-tracking systems, switch devices, or voice recognition software.
  • Users with hearing impairments. People with hearing impairments might not be able to consume audio information without visual aids. They rely on captions, transcripts, or sign language interpretation to access audio and video content. Websites without these features can exclude this group of users.

Learn more about how people with disabilities use the web.

How do you make websites accessible?

  1. Educate yourself and your team. Understand the basics of web accessibility and get buy-in to why it matters. Familiarize yourself with the global standard for web accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  2. Test your existing accessibility. Assess your website’s current level of accessibility, using a mixture of manual and automated approaches. Your website should be compatible with technologies like screen readers, magnification software, and voice recognition tools. It’s highly beneficial to include accessibility experts and users with disabilities in your testing process.
  3. Remediate your website. Unless a website was designed for accessibility from day one, it will almost certainly require changes to become accessible. These are typically a mixture of content changes (e.g. adding captions, and alternative text) and technical changes (e.g. changing the code for navigation and forms).

This isn’t the full story. Learn more about how to make a website accessible.

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