We don’t often hear about web accessibility.
When developing a website or an application, there are priorities that immediately jump out of our minds: an attractive design, a good UX and UI to guide the user to the right choices and make the navigation pleasant, a solid and maybe multi-platform development (or multi-browser in the case of a site), a good copyright, good call to action, and last but not least, a good SEO optimization.
Is it everything? Actually, it’s not.
The web accessibility theme is something that is rarely thought about as a priority, but should definitely be put among the first things to plan when starting a new project.
But let’s go with order.
What web accessibility means?
Web accessibility means all those practices, standards and features that a website must have in order to allow those who need to use assistive technologies to navigate online to use the site in the best possible way.
This means that a site must be optimized, for example, to allow a screen reader (a software that reads the site, allowing those with vision problems to understand what is in front of them) to read each part of the site clearly.
There are many people who, due to disabilities of various kinds, are forced to use assistive technology. There are screen readers, specially structured keyboards for those with motor problems, braille keyboards, software to transform voice into text and navigation commands, etc..
Having a good web accessibility on your site means allowing all these people (and there are many of them, but we get there) to navigate it without frustration.
Why should you care about web accessibility
According to Worldbank.org about one billion people on the planet, or 15% of all human beings, live with a form of disability. Of these, about one fifth, i.e. between 110 and 190 million people, have to live with a form of severe disability.
It is a huge amount, and I really do not see why we should, as developers and workers in the web world, simply not take into account the needs of a billion people.
In addition to my personal thoughts, there are several aspects that could make you think about web accessibility, and that could explain why taking care of the web accessibility of your site is a win-win exchange, for us who have a site and for the billion people who could visit it.
1 billion more customers
As mentioned before, the total number of people who need optimized sites to be browsed is very high.
I’m not a marketer, but thinking about leaving such a large number of users aside does not seem to me an economically smart choice.
Making your site, e-commerce, blog visitable by more potential customers seems to me a good deal.
Design and usability improve
Designing a site with accessibility as one of your priorities will allow you to have a better design and usability. Accessibility is not just about making a site readable by software, it is about making it easy to use and with a design designed to make it easy for the user to use.
This will benefit not only people with disabilities, but everyone.
Respect the law
Depending on the country you live in, you may also be forced to make your site accessible to everyone.
Thinking about this need in advance will make things easier for you when you go to develop the site and put you in a tight spot with any authorities.
Simply because it’s right
The Internet’s amazing. It is shared knowledge, usable by everyone and everywhere at no cost.
It’s a revolution in human history. Why not really allow everyone to enjoy it?
I believe it is simply right to allow anyone, even those who have difficulties, to be able to visit your site without frustration. We would be outraged if today we saw a house or a business with architectural barriers that prevent movement and usability by wheelchair users. Why shouldn’t we do the same thing online?
It is simply right to open up the internet to everyone, and make web accessibility finally as important a priority as good design or good SEO positioning.