What is Accessibility and Why is it Important?
Accessibility is one of the most important factors to consider when designing and developing a website. It can often fall to the wayside for more seemingly impactful metrics, such as conversions, total views, and fancy things like interactions and animations. However, forgetting about accessibility comes with a lot of consequences, some tangible, some intangible. In this article I’m going to explain what makes a website accessible, why a website NEEDS to be accessible, and some steps you can take to ensure your site is accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Accessibility [ak-ses-uh-bil-uh-tee]: The quality of being easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, use, or understand.
Above is the literal definition for Accessibility, and it’s very applicable to websites or any digital medium. Regardless of what you’re building, if you’re putting it in front of users then it should be at least one, if not all of these things: easy to use, easy to read, and easy to understand. Any barrier you put between the end user and their ability to use, read, or understand your product will result in a direct loss of revenue.
Now here comes the tricky part, what makes a website easy to use, read, and understand? Well that threshold is going to be completely different for each person, and is exactly why accessibility is so important.
Just because you can use, read, and understand your website, doesn’t mean everyone can.
Why is Accessibility Important?
A common misconception in the website industry is that Accessibility is something you can choose to implement and isn’t necessarily enforced. It’s seen more as a bonus and not a requirement.This is entirely incorrect and has landed some business owners in a heap of trouble. Not only will discriminating against people with disabilities cause you to miss out on a $1.28 trillion addressable market in the US alone, it also comes with legal implications. Last year 2021 had the largest number of web accessibility lawsuits ever, 14% higher than 2020. It was boosted by a record-breaking Q4, which was 26.9% higher than Q4 2020.1
1 2021 Website Accessibility Lawsuit Recap: Data, Trends, Comparisons, Accessibility.com (2022), https://www.accessibility.com/complete-report-2021-website-accessibility-lawsuits.
The most important piece to consider when talking about website accessibility is the Americans with Disabilities Act. Just like a brick and mortar store, your website needs to be inclusive and accessible by anyone, and refusing to do so is by definition discrimination. According to ADA Title III, every business, no matter how big or small, has to be accessible for people with disabilities. This applies to the largest multinational mega corporations, right down to a sole proprietorship.
How Do I Know If My Website Is Accessible?
There’s many factors that contribute to a website being accessible. From the site's colors and typefaces, to the orientation and overall layout of the site, all of these can either empower or restrict a disabled person from accessing and understanding your site. Thankfully, there are standards and guidelines we can follow to ensure every element on a site is implemented with accessibility in mind.
WCAG or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are arguably the most influential protocols currently shaping web accessibility policy. Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C, WCAG has been a massive step forward in providing robust guidelines for web developers to ensure as many websites as possible are accessible to everyone. The first publication for WCAG was made on January 28, 1998. Things have come a long way since the 90’s, and getting an accessibility audit for your site has never been easier.
Nowadays, there are plenty of modern accessibility tools to help you understand where your site is falling short. They make it easy to get your website compliant, and some even claim to resolve the issues for you. We find resolving accessibility issues manually is the best approach, but an auditing tool makes it much easier to identify and resolve issues relating to accessibility.
Some of the more popular tools are:
These tools are a gamechanger for the web development industry and make it easy for any website to become accessible and easy to use by everyone. At Flow Sparrow we leverage these tools daily to ensure not only our own website is compliant, but also any customer website we touch. If you’re unsure about the state of your current site, and want to do everything you can to make your site inclusive, then taking advantage of these tools is a great first step.
What Are the Benefits of Accessibility?
There are many benefits to making your website WCAG compliant. Some of the main benefits include:
Improved user experience: By making your website more accessible, you can improve the overall user experience for all users, including those with disabilities.
Compliance with WCAG guidelines: This ensures that your website complies with the latest WCAG guidelines, which can help to avoid potential legal issues.
Increased reach: By making your website more accessible, you can reach a wider audience, including people with disabilities who may have previously been unable to use your site.
In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your website is accessible to all users. Some tools offer an easy and effective way to make your website WCAG compliant, improving the user experience for all users, and helping you to avoid potential legal issues. By using these helpful tools, you can ensure that your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities.If you’re struggling to understand or fix accessibility issues with your site, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help!