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Accessibility isn't just about disability, it benefits everyone

William J. Hughes from Elizabeth City, N.C., sitting on a wicker chair in his U.S. Navy uniform with his arm in a sling.
How do you define disability?

Recently we covered what web accessibility means, so we won't go over that too much again.

To recap, when we talk about 'web accessibility' what we mean is making a website or web-based service or product easy to use for people with unique needs. The web itself is so painfully powerful as a resource for many of our daily lives and it's only logical to suggest that all businesses and developers have a responsibility to make the web as inclusive as they can.

Businesses may say otherwise. They might believe that their consumers are able-bodied individuals. They might think their product or service isn't intended for those with sight, hearing, cognitive or motor function issues. Can that really be true?

The stats might surprise you

Over 7 million people (18% of the working-age population) in Britain are disabled as defined as by the Equality Act 2010. That's 10% of the entire UK population. A disability can be on a scale from non-permanent to temporary; that being vision loss, hearing loss, loss of mobility in a hand or arm, to permanent; that being totally blind, deaf, having cognitive impairment or mobility limitation, and so on.

Disabilities

Let's look at some real-world circumstances and contemplate if the people described have a disability:

  • We can all relate to Katie. Katie has sleep deprivation, being a mum of two. Katie, being exhausted, is easily agitated by the internet and how her devices work (or don't). She has a difficult time using her tablet whilst holding her baby. Key items are at the top of her screen and she can't reach them with her thumb.

  • Mary has broken a finger on her dominant hand. It means using a mouse, touchpad or trackpad is tricky. The doctor assures her it'll heal in 4–6 weeks, but for now, Mary is using her non-dominant hand for navigating.

  • James is partially colour-blind. He doesn't know it. He finds the majority of websites are difficult to read and assumes that's just today's modern designs not being his cup of tea.

  • Colin has an age-related case of macular degeneration, meaning he experiences visual disturbances in the centre of everything he looks directly at. He can see, he is not completely blind, but it does take Colin more time than the average to absorb information on a page or fill in a form as he needs to move his focal point back and forth in order to see what's on the screen and use his keyboard.

These are just some examples, and now you've been made aware of them, you can think of a few of your own. The point is, do these people fit into your category of what a person with a disability deals with? It's unlikely if you're honest, but they're equally as important as everyone else.

If we're dealing with 10% of the UK, looking at the examples, technically only Colin qualifies as disabled. Does that mean the others aren't? Mary will heal. James isn't even aware he has an issue. Katie just considers herself to be one of the millions of busy mothers. Yet, they're all experiencing a challenge when trying to access content via the web.

What is an accessible website?

The point of accessibility is that it doesn't look at all different to what you're currently accustomed to seeing and using. Accessibility makes the web improved for every single user, and therefore your business.

For example:

  • Different ways to digest the same piece of content. This is called adaptable content. It's simple. Responsive mobile design fits in here, but the semantics of HTML comes in other formats too like computer-readable content outlines.

  • Landmarking and focus styles within keyboard navigation make navigating a site simple for anyone using any device; including with a keyboard, mouse, touch, stylus and voice control.

  • Increasing contrast ratios on text, or text on an image. It's simple and gives everyone improved legibility!

  • Limit flashing on elements to 3 per second. This aids users with vestibular disorders or photosensitive epilepsy. Plus, can you remember a time you enjoyed a flashing image?

  • Legible and clear labels on forms, error messages and landmarks. Again, beneficial to everyone.

  • Audio and video transcripts. This might take some more work, but the results pay dividends in improved SEO and searchability (by text) when there is a present transcript.

  • Content for screen readers and context for those users with visual impairment. Again, this takes some work to develop. The results are streamlined task executions for any of your users and further improved SEO due to the and semantic highly structured content that has extra metadata.

The accessibility of your site

There are a lot of ways you can analyse the accessibility of your site. Some need a bit of expert help. If you have a Drupal site (or WordPress), you'll already be benefitting from some basic level accessibility that comes built-in. If you've had your site custom-built, however, the developers and designers may have overlooked extra accessibility features.

An experiment you can try is to move through the pages on your site. Can you move the mouse cursor from one part of the page to another section? Can you fill in forms? If you try to tab, does it jump from the top of a page (the navigation) straight to the bottom; missing out the content?

We recommend an accessibility audit on your site. We'll provide explanations into where and why there might be problems, and more importantly, what can be done about it. We'll run a full audit. We're proud that our audits are more thorough than most. We'll consider the existing issues by diving right into the code.

Accessibility is for everyone

There are plenty of good reasons why a business needs to implement accessibility on their site. Who in their right mind would restrict the number of people who could have access to their products and services? Welcoming more people, with unique needs means more traffic. This means increased revenue. If profit isn't enough, you'll be making a great step toward inclusivity.

We'd love to chat to you about giving your site an accessibility audit, so we can dig deep into how we can make it diverse and inclusive. Contact us.