The internet has revolutionized communication, education, business, and entertainment. Yet for many people with disabilities, these doors remain closed. Inaccessible website design shuts out a significant portion of the population, denying them fair access to information and services. With some thoughtful adjustments, we can open the web to everyone.
The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.Tim Berners-Lee
The Need for Accessibility
There are over one billion people worldwide with disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. This includes impairments like:
- Blindness and visual impairments
- Deafness and hearing loss
- Mobility limitations
- Cognitive disabilities
Studies by the National Center for Accessible Media found that when websites are accessible, 95% of people with disabilities are more likely to use them. Making the web inclusive for people with impairments provides access to a huge demographic.
Barriers to Accessibility
Most website developers do not purposefully restrict access to people with disabilities. More often, they simply do not consider how these users may engage with their sites. Without awareness of their needs, developers inadvertently create barriers.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline ways to remove these barriers. Following these standards helps ensure websites are accessible to all.
Examples of Accessibility Barriers
- Images without alt text tags are invisible to blind users who rely on screen readers. Adding descriptive tags fixes this issue.
- Videos without closed captions are unusable for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captions unlock audio and video content.
- Sites that are not keyboard accessible exclude users with mobility limitations who cannot use a mouse.
- Poor color contrast makes text difficult to read for those with low vision. High contrast fixes this.
Benefits of Accessibility
An accessible website is better for everyone, not just users with disabilities. Accessibility improvements make sites more intuitive and user-friendly for all visitors.
Specific benefits include:
- Increased overall website traffic and reach
- Improved SEO rankings
- Enhanced brand reputation
- Higher customer satisfaction
The UK government website GOV.UK exemplifies accessible design done well. Their in-house team worked with disabled users and accessibility specialists to overhaul the site. Improvements included color contrast changes, font adjustment capabilities, keyboard navigation, alt text additions, transcription services, and ARIA landmark roles.
Thanks to their inclusive approach, GOV.UK increased overall site satisfaction by 22%. They received the Digital Leaders 100 Accessibility Award, recognizing their effort to serve all citizens equally. GOV.UK sets a high standard for public sector web accessibility.
Quick Tips to Improve Accessibility
Here are some easy ways to make your website more accessible:
- Add alternative text descriptions for images
- Caption videos
- Structure pages that are keyboard navigable
- Use clear, concise language
- Allow users to adjust color and font settings
Tools and Resources
We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.– Marshall McLuhan
Organizations like the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provide developers with training and evaluation tools. Their step-by-step resources explain exactly how to make sites accessible.
Tools like the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool identify specific issues to address. Certification programs also confirm full conformance with WCAG criteria.
Evaluate your own website’s accessibility using the free tools highlighted in this article. Make a list of issues to address. Commit to making improvements, no matter how small, to work towards full accessibility. Aim to serve your whole audience inclusively. Welcome user feedback to guide your efforts. Together, we can open the web to all.
With small but thoughtful changes, we can open the web to all users. Web accessibility enables people with disabilities to more fully participate in society. Creating an inclusive online world requires awareness, training, and a commitment to serving all users equally.