Table of contents
Let’s start at the beginning…
What is accessible web design?
Many people associate the topic of accessibility with physical space, as opposed to accessible web design.
However, disabilities come in various forms, many of which can be either helped or hindered by technology.
But how does accessible web design come into play, and more importantly, what is it?
Why is accessibility important?
Accessibility refers to the process of designing something with disabilities in mind.
The goal of accessibility is to provide people with disabilities access to things able-bodied people have the ability to use without limitations.
Something as simple as a soft drink can be made inaccessible to someone if the person drinking has mobility issues and was not provided with a straw.
This fact may be surprising, as disabled people have historically had their needs largely ignored by mainstream society.
Some good news
The good news is businesses like yours put consumer interests at the heart of your mission.
In order to do so, it’s necessary to recognise that when we don’t provide accessibility, we are limiting what disabled people can and cannot do. We take away their agency.
Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, seen and unseen. It’s important your business’ web design accounts for all of them.
Prioritising accessibility in your business’ web design also reduces costs, and improves your SEO. And unlike most proactive business practices, implementing it is simple.
But most of all, accessibility in your business is a necessity.
Appealing to the largest minority
The disabled community currently stands as 16% of the global population, making it the largest minority.
Almost everyone has encountered someone disabled in some form of another, from neighbours, to friends, to family.
This is due to the fact that as we age, our bodies change. Things like diseases and accidents can be unavoidable and affect us for the rest of our lives.
Aging also plays a factor. For example, hearing loss, or poor eyesight effect most elderly people in some form or another.
The disabled community is often left out of the conversation when it comes to web design. In fact, 71% of disabled users exit a website due to inaccessibility.
Increasing the accessibility of your website will increase foot traffic, therefore increasing profits.
More importantly, this change will give your disabled customers the chance to benefit from your business’ services and show them that customer satisfaction is your #1 priority.
Access cost savings
Accessibility cuts costs in other ways too.
The older people become, the likelier they are to either already have a disability or accumulate one. This applies to members of staff, whom your company has likely invested time, training, and resources into.
Valued employees such as these diversify the workplace, and maintain company moral.
Accessibility allows these loyal members to retain their employment relationship with your company and avoids the extra costs of recruiting and training new members of staff.
It’s totally unfair to render disabled staff members as redundant instead of using preventative measures to improve their working environment.
Specifically in web design, employees should be able to access the company website they represent. Making this accessible shows your values; both employees and consumers will know you appreciate your employees, who, in turn, will appreciate your support.
Improve your Search Engine Optimisation
A website’s search engine optimisation, or SEO, describes the visibility or search-ability of a website. A website with a high SEO has an increased likelihood of accumulating high percentages of foot traffic.
The long and short of it? As more people become aware of your website, the more often people will access it, and use your services.
Many factors contribute to a website’s SEO, and accessibility is one of them. Search engines prioritise websites that work for everyone.
Improve your website’s online presence by adding accessibility features. It’s simpler than you think.
Implementing accessible web design
Understand how users interact with your website
Visual and audio impairment both require different accessibility features.
Cover all your bases by enabling your website with both audio and text descriptions of images.
You can also combine audio and visual content for increased understanding.
Additionally, include video transcriptions, and make sure all blocks of text on your website are written in a legible font size and style, with enough spacing in between words to limit confusion.
The use of symbols in text, and easy to understand written content in general, will make it easier for people who have difficulty reading, to connect with your business’ message.
Colour contrast also factors into accessibility for those with visual impairments, such as colour blindness.
The structure of your website is important too. Navigation should be consistent and headings should follow a set structure.
Many designers use H1, H2 and H3 tags simply to indicate where text should be larger or smaller. Best practice is to treat these tags as a skeleton for the content on your site. Each set of H3’s should have a sensible relationship to the H2 above. The table of contents in this post is a good example of this.
Follow the guidelines
To ensure that your website meets accessibility standards, it is crucial to follow the accessibility guidelines set forth by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The WCAG guidelines provide a set of success criteria that help make web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
By following these simple rules, businesses can create a more inclusive and accessible website that benefits all users.
Accessible web design is becoming increasingly important as more countries pass accessibility laws and regulations that require businesses to comply with accessibility standards such as the WCAG.
Show your customers and employees your business’ values through accessible web design.
It’s easy, saves money, and improves your business’ visibility.
Most importantly, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Kayla Monteiro is a talented, socially conscious MA Creative Writing graduate and freelance copywriter based in Manchester.