Web accessibility ensures that all forms of digital media, including websites, apps, software programs and content can be accessed by everyone, including those who are limited by physical or cognitive disabilities. Nearly 15 per cent of the world’s population or an estimated 1 billion people live with disabilities. Web accessibility is being considered more of a priority today than it has ever been before.
Millions of internet users have disabilities or impairments that make it difficult or nearly impossible for them to navigate certain websites. People with visual and hearing impairments, motor skill and physical disabilities, photosensitivity and cognitive disabilities often need assistive technologies to browse the internet. We are responsible for ensuring that the website of our business or organization can accommodate everyone.
Accessibility is not an option
Accessibility is no longer optional. As new technology trends and advancements continue to be made in the digital sphere, we must consider whether or not people with disabilities will be able to benefit equally from the latest technology. Web accessibility needs to be considered a priority for all digital projects, especially in Ontario, where changes to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will require that all websites are compliant with the new guidelines by January 2021.
Web accessibility affects things like SEO and user experience. By nature, accessible websites are easier for all users to navigate, regardless of their abilities. Users are able to have a more robust experience by being able to quickly and effectively access the information or content that they are looking for.
Tap into a lucrative market
As noted in a previous OPIN article, an accessible website makes your content, products, as well as your services, available to a larger, under-served group of people. Without an accessible website, you are limiting who is able to use your site to access your services. The results of choosing to ignore web accessibility will have an effect on how your business performs, as 71 per cent of users with disabilities will click away from a website that they find difficult to use.
Making your site accessible offers an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and become an industry leader for inclusivity. An accessible website shows visitors that you care about providing users with an accessible digital experience that caters to their individual needs.
Accessibility is not going away
The web accessibility movement is not temporary and web design and development processes will continue to improve and adapt. It’s important to design and develop a site with accessibility best practices in mind, including adding features such as alt text to all images and media, colour contrast and making the website keyboard-friendly. In addition to those features, it’s imperative to ensure all content, including dynamic content, is easily accessible to users. Accessibility should be a priority throughout the entire design and development process. Attention to minor details and continuous testing will help offer a website that is usable to all.
It is important for businesses to commit to web accessibility. Becoming an organization with an accessible website means that your accessibility issues can be resolved with innovation instead of litigation. Making accessibility a priority for your organization in 2020 will put your digital environment ahead of the 2021 deadline and in turn, will improve the overall performance of your business while building brand loyalty. Accessibility will enable innovation and set new design and development standards.
Begin your web accessibility journey with OPIN
View the original version of this article to gain access to a free, on-demand web accessibility webinar.
Resolve your web accessibility issues with innovation, instead of litigation. Learn where to begin your accessibility journey and get ahead of the 2021 AODA compliance deadline today.
Julia Adler is a marketing coordinator at OPIN Software, an Ottawa-based digital agency.